Attempted Coup Fallout Perturbs U.S.-Turkey Relations

By Vivienne Machi
The aftermath of a failed coup attempt on Turkey’s government earlier this year could have ramifications for U.S.-Turkey military relations, an expert said.

On July 15, a faction within the Turkish armed forces staged a coup against Turkish state institutions, attempting to take over areas of Ankara, Istanbul and elsewhere. Over 300 people were killed and more than 2,100 injured before the attempt was stifled by forces loyal to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his government.

Since the attempted coup, Erdogan has purged government institutions of individuals he views as disloyal, including over 3,700 ranking military officers, according to Turkish Defense Minister Fikri Isik.

This removal of key military officials could have implications for Turkey’s relationship with the United States and other Western allies, said Aaron Stein, a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council’s Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East.

Tensions could rise between pro-NATO and anti-NATO Turkish government officials, he said. “Things will get prickly between the two sides, which will mirror the overarching diplomatic problems that are taking place.”

Policies that were under discussion up until the fallout have been “completely upset,” Stein said.

This includes areas where the two countries could cooperate regarding the Syrian civil war, especially related to the Syrian Kurds, who are allied with the United States.

Military procurement is also expected to take a hit, Stein said. The naval and helicopter market areas are vulnerable. “The prime minister has to make the final approval of big-ticket purchases, [but he] is now stuck doing other things,” he said.

U.S. defense contractors were gearing up to compete for Turkey’s plan to build new frigates. Additionally, Sikorsky had efforts in place to build the S-70 medium transport/utility helicopter in Turkey, Stein said.

“These are big-ticket items that all of a sudden have a toxic political environment in Turkey,” he said. Plans for the country to purchase the F-35 Lightning II joint strike fighter appear unaffected by the coup changes, Stein said.

The coup will not interrupt the United States’ efforts to combat the Islamic State, he said.

Topics: International, Global Defense Market

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