If there were any doubts about the huge rift that has developed between Ankara and Washington were needed, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s testimony yesterday before the House Foreign Affairs Committee put them to rest.
The hearing was held ahead of Pompeo’s talks with Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Davutoglu next week in Washington, where Syria will top the agenda.
While acknowledging that Turkey in the past has been “an important Nato partner”, Pompeo essentially said that Ankara’s geopolitical moves have distanced it from Atlantic Alliance, so much so that he said that he is attempting to persuade Turkey to “rejoin Nato”, suggesting that Ankara has effectively withdrawn by virtue of its actions.
A barrage of questions highlighted the heightened concerns of Congressmen on a range of issues pertaining to Turkey’s geopolitical posture – from Syria, to tight relations with Russian and moves to break the US embargo on Moscow through the planned purchase of S-400 missiles.
“For a ‘friend,’ they are very problematic,” Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker said recently.
Pompeo clearly signaled that Ankara is directly undermining Nato.
“We need their behavior to reflect the objectives of NATO, and that’s what we’re diligently working to do – to get them to rejoin NATO, in a way, with their actions, consistent with what we’re trying to achieve in NATO. And not take actions that undermine its efforts,” Pompeo told the House Committee.
However, the Secretary of State also indicated that Washington has not made a final decision on whether to deny Ankara the super-advanced F-35 stealth fighters that it is eager to buy.
Congressman Brad Sherman expressed opposition to the deal, saying that the intention is to use the F-35 against Greece.
Pompeo indicated that the outcome will depend on whether Ankara cancels the S-400s deal.
“We continue to work to keep the Turks in a place where they don’t actually acquire the S-400s. We’re hopeful they’ll never take possession,” Pompeo said.