Ankara can expel American troops stationed at Turkey’s southern Incirlik Air Base as the US suspended handling all regular visa applications in Turkey, Turkish media reported today.
Yesterday, Washington suspended handling all regular visa applications in Turkey, escalating a row after a member of staff at the US consulate in Istanbul was arrested for alleged links to Fethullah Gulen, a US-based Muslim leader blamed by Ankara for a failed coup attempt last year..
In turn, Turkey also suspended all visa services regarding the US citizens.
Earlier, Germany had completed the withdrawal of Tornado jet fighters from the Incirlik Air Force and transferred them to an air base near al Azraq in Jordan.
A senior research fellow at the European Research Centre of the International Relations Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Vladimir Olenchenko, speaking with a correspondent of Vestnik Kavkaza, noted that, indeed, Erdogan may raise the issue of closing the Incirlik base for the US Air Force. "Of course, in this case Turkish president will face serious resistance in NATO. But I think that Erdogan has already set the trend of weakening Turkey's dependence on the West, and he will continue this trend in all areas. The question is how intensively and quickly the weakening will be carried out. And it will depend on Washington's actions,the situation in Syria and internal political problems which Erdogan will face. It is unlikely that it will be radical - there are too many constraining factors - but there is no doubt that it will be implemented," he said.
In his assessment, Washington in this conflict with Ankara seeks to weaken the position of the Turkish president. "The US would like to maintain its presence in this region, and Turkey has been its foothold for a while. Now, it changed and the US seems to think that this is about Erdogan, and he needs to be replaced by a more pro-American figure. Erdogan, in turn, claims to be a regional leader who needs a great deal of political, economic and military maneuver freedom. The US urges him to act more in his own interests. The clash of these two positions - the desire of the US to preserve Turkey as its foothold and Erdogan's desire to make the country more independent - leads to the current problems in their relations," Vladimir Olenchenko stressed.
The head of the political research of the Center for Modern Turkish Studies, Yuri Mavashev, in turn, linked the current round of conflict between Ankara and Washington with their disagreements over Syria. "Although the US officially supported the operation of Turkey's Armed Forces and the Syrian opposition in Idlib, it does not negate the fact that there are certain forces in the US for whom the presence of terrorists in Idlib is beneficial. But it may also be connected with the Kurdish problem. Nevertheless, I think that it is very difficult to damage Turkish-US relations more than the current limitation of issuing visas," he said.
In this connection, the expert does not expect that the conflict can reach the stage of rupture of diplomatic relations between the US and Turkey. "So far we have not seen sharp comments from Turkey against Washington: Erdogan said that the West supports terrorists, but it was not personally addressed to the US. Ankara is in a better position now: there are very few countries in the Middle East that Washington can trust, but with Turkey the US can maintain a constructive dialogue. So I think the consequences will not be too serious," Yuriy Mavashev expects.
He agreed with Vladimir Olenchenko that the US is trying to impose its will on Ankara. "There is a feeling that those people in the US administration who are engaged in politics towards Turkey still do not understand that the republic has changed dramatically. Washington still defends the old picture of the world where the entire Middle East is under their influence. Turkey defends its picture of the world where Ankara is building a new Turkey as a regional leader. Indeed, today there is no single serious regional or global process where Turkey is not represented. Previously, the country was perceived as a resort, southern flank of NATO, but today the situation is quite different, and the Turkish authorities are trying to protect new Turkey, including from the United States," the orientalist concluded.