Monday, June 04, 2018

Ponder the Nuance

I've been worried about supplying Turkey with fully capable F-35s. It may not be possible to downgrade them to safe technology levels to minimize damage to American national security if Turkey goes full rogue and gives the Russians or Chinese full access to the plane.

Now Turkey, which has spend 15 years on the path of going from Western ally to Islamist autocracy with delusions of a reborn Ottoman empire (not fully there but getting darned close), threatens to buy elsewhere if America won't sell F-35s to Turkey:

Turkey will buy jets elsewhere if the United States stops it buying Lockheed Martin F-35s, Ankara's foreign minister was quoted as saying amid tensions between the allies over defense and the fate of a jailed U.S. pastor.

While I wouldn't eject Turkey from NATO--why make Turkey's decision for them when there is hope they might reverse course if miracles happen?--but I would scale back intelligence sharing, keep American tactical nukes out of Turkey just in case, find alternatives to bases in Turkey, and refuse to sell F-35s to Turkey.

And while the intelligence angle may be moot given the many targets for stealing the plane's secrets, Turkey's increasing hostility and autocracy under Erdogan may make denying Turkey the F-35 a good idea apart from technology security.

Turkey has a couple choices without the American plane: buy Russian or buy Chinese. Buying Russian is insane given that Russia would like to rebuild their empire, which has a long history of war with the Turkish empire. Turkey does not want their aircraft reliant on Russian spare parts if there is a Russian-Turkish conflict.

And if China sells to Turkey? Well, Russia won't like that one bit, and it might just drive a wedge between Russia and China. That is something America should encourage to make China focus more inland than to the sea where America and our allies are currently the major target of Chinese military modernization and expansive objectives.

I've long said that the worst best option is to be able to win a war with China. Better is the ability to deter China from starting a war. Best is to get China more worried about Russia so that the talk of war risks centers on those two rather than between China and America.

How's that for foreign policy nuance? 

And no, I haven't given up on nominally NATO member Turkey. If Iran was as good as Turkey we'd call our Iran policy a roaring success. But I do think of Turkey as more like Pakistan--a black sheep ally that we only sometimes have common objectives to pursue together, and otherwise need to keep a wary watch on.

And I'd rather not watch them with our new F-35s.