USA THREATENS TO SCRAP THE F-35 JET DEAL WITH TURKEY OVER ITS PURCHASE OF RUSSIAN S-400. SHOULD INDIA EXPECT SIMILAR ACTION?

  29-Jun-2019 13:45:53

UsaTurkey

Earlier this year, US officials told Turkey to scrap its deal to purchase S-400. The major concern of USA behind this is the deal's incompatibility with its current arsenal of American military hardware. USA also voiced concerns that the S-400 would compromise with the working of F-35 fighter jets, thereby dissing Turkey's plan as "deeply problematic". Last month the US halted deliveries of F-35 related equipment over Turkey's refusal to back down from the S-400 deal with Russia. Commenting on the issue, Turkish President Erdogan said that the US is

"Passing the ball around in the midfield now, showing some reluctance". "But sooner or later, we will receive the F-35s. [The US] not delivering them is not an option", he added.

Acting US Defence Secretary Patrick Shanahan wrote to his Turkish counterpart, warning him of the consequences Ankara would face if it did not step back from the deal to buy the Russian air defence system. Turkey has time till July 31, 2019 to 'unwind' the deal, the US has warned. The key points of the letter were-

• If Ankara Government proceeds with its deal with Moscow, Washington will unwind the country's participation in F-35 fighter jet program.

• Turkey will be forbidden from taking final delivery of the four F-35s it recently ordered.

• Training for Turkish personnel on F-35 will be discontinued from the end of July.

• All the Turkish personnel on the program must leave the US by the end of that month.

WHY IS THE S-400 PROGRAM A THREAT?

Washington is rather adamant to quell this deal as the S-400 is designed to shoot down an aircraft like the F-35 stealth fighter jets, leaving the US technology vulnerable to any Turkish-Russian collaboration. Its deployment in Turkey would further advance Putin's efforts to engineer a bigger role in Middle-East, a notch higher. The S-400 also known within NATO as the SA-Growler has advanced radars and is not compatible with the NATO technology. As an incumbent NATO member, Turkey's deal with Russia could undermine its ties with Europe and the US. Lastly, the US is also concerned that Turkey could become over-dependent on Russia strategically and economically.

WHY IS TURKEY SO DETERMINED TO GO WITH THE DEAL?

Turkish companies were set to produce about $1.2 billion in parts for the F-35 jets and the Turkish Air force planned to receive about 100 of the planes. The suspension of the F-35 jet deal might cost Turkey a bomb; still it is unwavering in its stance. Erdogan said that Turkey's Western allies failed to provide his country the necessary defence against missile threats from neighbouring Iran, Iraq and Syria. The US quailed at selling Turkey its Patriot air defence system and sharing its technology at the same time, for years. Turkey's decision, therefore, seems quite understandable here. The reluctance also reflects Turkey's desire for a progressively independent role in regional policies and for economic ties with Russia, which ships natural gas, lots of tourists and agricultural goods to Turkey.

WHAT ACTION COULD THE US POSSIBLY TAKE AGAINST TURKEY?

Apart from the expulsion from Lockhead Martin Corp.'s F-35 program, the deal could also trigger sanctions against Turkey under the US Magnitsky Act. The last time the US sanctioned some members of the Turkish Government, over the arrest of an American preacher, many economic problems were amplified for Turkey. Not to forget, the ensuing collapse in the value of their currency which led to the country's first recession in a decade, catapulting inflation and unemployment.

SHOULD INDIA BE WORRIED?

India, too, is in a position to bear the brunt of the US-Russia tussle, after it formally inked the $5.2 billion deal for S-400 system with Russia. The air defence system is expected to be delivered by the year 2020. The deal was sealed during Putin's two day visit to India in October 2018.

The Russian S-400 Triumf advanced air defence system became a bone of contention between India and the US, especially after the US brought in a new law, CAATSA(Countering America's Adversaries Through Sanctions Act ) under which it imposed sanctions on Iran, Russia and North Korea. This move by India, clearly, tantamount to inviting US sanctions. It also forces India to use a currency apart from the US Dollar to set the exchange rate between Rupee and Rouble. India was earlier honouring its payment for defence contracts with the US Dollar.

India is reluctant to suspend the deal despite the expected outcomes. In their justification, the former Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said that the US administration has "heard and understood" India's deal to purchase S-400 missile defence system from Russia. When asked if she was confident that India would avoid sanctions, Sitharaman said, "Yes, I hope so".

IMPLICATIONS OF CAATSA FOR INDIA'S DEFENCE RELATION WITH RUSSIA AND USA

India's planned defence procurement from Russia could potentially come under the US sanctions under the newly enacted law CAATSA. This Act has the potential to adversely affect India's defence purchases from its traditional partner, Russia; besides putting to test India's growing defence and security relations with the US. Enacted on August 2nd, 2017, the Act basically aims to counter the aggression by Iran, Russia and North Korea through punitive measures. While the recent reports suggests that CAATSA is unlikely to be imposed on India anytime soon, it is undoubtedly a dampener on the booming defence relationship between USA and India. It is practically impossible for India to suspend its existing or future defence cooperation with Russia. Having said that, India also needs to be prepared for any eventual CAATSA-related sanctions, which though unlikely in the immediate future, may surface in the long run.

INDIA'S HISTORY WITH THE US SANCTIONS

Not long ago, India ended all imports of oil from Iran, becoming the latest country to grudgingly comply with threatened US sanctions. The bilateral Indo-US relationship is not what it should be ideally, given the series of American demands that India should not import crude oil from first Iran and then Venezuela. Together Iran and Venezuela accounted for roughly 1/5th of India's cumulative crude imports. India is the world's third largest energy importer (after USA and China). India imports around 80% crude oil it possesses. India is definitely paying a huge cost to avoid sanctions.

From squeezing India to stop buying oil from Iran to withdrawing preferential trade access to New Delhi to ever tighter norms on guest worker visas to President Trump's constant cribbing over a minor tariff issue relating to Harley-Davidson motorcycles, all of these are clearly undermining the US-India mutual pledge to elevate their relationship.


By: Hera Rizwan