The Turkish leader announced on Sunday that Incirlik Air Base – a vital hub for US and NATO forces stationed in the Middle East – could close its doors if US lawmakers press ahead with sanctioning Turkey for its acquisition of the Russian-made S-400 air defense system.
Incirlik is not a backwater airstrip, the kind the United States utilizes for its drone missions in Africa, for example. Instead it’s a massive base in Adana, a city of 1.7 million people. Here, just 250km from the Syrian border, nearly 5,000 US airmen are stationed, as well as several hundred Turkish airmen. More than 50 hardened aircraft shelters hide American jets, while the base also hosts an estimated 50 American nukes.
ALSO ON RT.COMTurkey could shut down Incirlik Air Base used by US if necessary – Erdogan on US sanctionsErdogan has also threatened to close the Kurecik Radar Station, an isolated facility on a scorched hill in southeastern Turkey that performs a vital function as an early warning against ballistic missile attacks.
His threats are serious ones, but not unexpected. Rather they’re the latest round in an ongoing match of diplomatic swordplay between Washington and Ankara. For the US, the stakes in this game are high. If Congress pushes ahead with its vendetta against Ankara, the US risks burning its bridges with its NATO ally, and pushing Erdogan closer to regional players like Russia and Iran.
Don’t test Erdogan
Whatever course Washington ultimately decides upon, it would be unwise to assume that the Turkish strongman is simply bluffing, Yusuf Erim, a political analyst at TRT World, told RT.
Erdogan always follows through on what he says and we need to take him verbatim. If the US imposes sanctions on Turkey, it will have a boomerang effect and judging from the Turkish President’s rhetoric, Congress’ actions could cost the US two key bases in Turkey
He stressed that such an extreme measure would only be seriously considered as a reaction to new policies or legislation imposed by Washington. However, if sanctions are imposed, it could trigger a “snowball” effect, sending US-Turkey relations into a nosedive.
Erdogan’s previous decisions have shown he can be taken at his word. The Turkish president earned the scorn of his NATO allies for pressing ahead with the S-400 deal and defied Washington’s threats to take delivery of the Russian missiles in July. That delivery saw Turkey booted out of the F-35 fighter jet program, but not even expulsion from the F-35 project, nor a face-to-face meeting with President Donald Trump last month, could convince Erdogan to reverse course.