WASHINGTON — Turkey is threatening to shut off access to two of its domestic military bases used by U.S. and NATO forces if sanctions against Ankara now before Congress become law.
The two facilities are the Incirlik Air Base, the pivotal strategic air facility for U.S. and NATO forces for decades, and the base at Kurecik radar station in southeastern Turkey, established in 2012 for use by NATO as an early-warning radar against ballistic missile attacks.
Congress supports the sanctions in response to Turkey’s purchase and expected use of the Russian-built S-400 anti-missile system and for its invasion of northern Syria. The sanctions passed the House in a wide-bipartisan vote and cleared the Senate Foreign Relations Committee last week in a similar strong bipartisan manner.
“If it is necessary for us to take such a step, of course we have the authority,” Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Sunday, according to Reuters. “If this is necessary, together with our delegations, we will close down Incirlik if necessary.”
Earlier, Turkish foreign minister Turkish FM Mevlut Cavusoglu said “The U.S. Congress members should understand that they cannot achieve anything by imposition,” according to news reports.
U.S. and NATO nations oppose the installation of the Russian S-400 system since its radar would be able to possibly find vulnerabilities in the F-35 and other stealth-like aircraft. The installation of the system is underway in Turkey.
As a response to the purchase, the U.S. removed Turkey from the F-35 program last summer.
Turkey has used the facilities as bargaining chips in the past. In 1975 Ankara limited U.S. use of Incirlik to NATO-related operations in response to Washington’s consideration of steps to reduce the Turkish army’s use of U.S-made weapons, an arms embargo, and freezing aid in response to Turkey’s operation to protect Cypriot Turks from ethnic cleansing.
The U.S.-Turkey military relationship began in 1946, when Washington sent ships the region to counter Soviet pressure on Turkey. The Truman Doctrine of 1947 led to the U.S. giving Turkey millions of dollars in economic and military aid. Turkey alsi benefited from the Marshall Plan.
In 1950, Turkish troops joined U.N. forces during the Korean War. It joined NATO in 1952. In 1954, Turkey opened Incirlik to U.S. forces and it was the launchpad for U2 spy plane missions deep into Soviet territory. It was also critical in the two Gulf Wars and ongoing operations in the Middle East.