When I first saw a headline at the Washington Examiner about President Trump blocking a weapons deal with Turkey, for some reason I thought it might be referring to the Turk’s purchasing the S-400 missile system. But then I realized that would be quite a feat for Trump since they’re buying the non-standard weapons from the Russians.
Of course, it turned out to be something entirely different. This was an application from Sig Sauer to sell small arms to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s security detail. Even as tense as things have been between our two nations lately, that was one transaction which was simply going to be a bridge too far, even if it immediately outraged the Tyrant of Turkey.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan will be banned by the Trump administration from purchasing weapons from a U.S. manufacturer, according to a new report.
The decision blocks a $1.2 million deal that would have supplied arms to Erdogan’s security detail, months after Erdogan’s team outraged U.S. leaders by beating protesters against his regime during a trip to Washington, D.C. The violence added new stress to an alliance that has grown fraught in recent years, despite Turkey’s status as a key member of NATO.
“The State Department, in informing Congress that it was formally withdrawing the planned sale, said it was at the request of Sig Sauer, which had requested the license from the U.S. government that’s needed to export weapons outside the U.S.,” according to the Associated Press, which first reported the cancellation. “But the U.S. had already quietly put the sale on hold after the violence, and the Trump administration had informed the Turkish government that the sale wouldn’t be allowed to take place. Sig Sauer appeared to have pulled its request for a license from the U.S. government after hearing from the Turks that it no longer expected to purchase the weapons.”
Erdogan immediately protested that the U.S. was “putting weapons in the hands of the terrorists” (by which I assume he means the Kurds) but that’s pretty much what he says about everyone these days. He’s also got enough other deals going with us at the moment that this one relatively minor purchase probably isn’t going to completely throw U.S. – Turkish relations on the rocks.
There’s also some dispute over who caved first. At least one source is saying that this was a decision made by the White House but another reports that it was Sig Sauer who asked to cancel the transaction first. The motivations on both sides were fairly obvious. I’m sure you remember that incident when Erdogan was visiting President Trump in Washington and some of his guards decided to head out and beat down some people who were protesting his government on the streets. That was a diplomatic disaster and I’m sure nobody wanted to have their name associated with any sort of deal where weapons were not just being sent to Turkey in general but specifically to Erdogan’s security forces.
Does this change anything in the big picture? Probably not. Sig Sauer won’t lose all that much business and Erdogan’s goons will wind up getting their guns from somebody else. The Trump administration will get to say that they did something concrete in response to the violent conflict in Washington and Erdogan will be able to stamp his feet for the Turkish media. Then they’ll all go back to doing their business as usual. That may sound pessimistic, but it’s just the reality of 21st century diplomacy.