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Turkey bets on NATO as escape route in S-400 crisis

In a move to buy time, Erdogan is taking the S-400 crisis to NATO grounds, as Ankara’s testing of the Russian-made system the week before a NATO summit shows Ankara still has maneuvering room.
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Less than two weeks after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s trip to Washington, which secured the shelving of sanctions against Turkey for the time being, Ankara muddied the waters again, testing the Russian S-400 air defense system that lies at the core of bilateral tensions. Ankara had been expected to draw up a middle-way formula that would not anger Russia, while the United States had left room for reconciliation on the condition that Turkey does not activate the $2.5 billion system. Also, the dialogue mechanism between Erdogan’s spokesman, Ibrahim Kalin, and US national security adviser Robert O’Brien — agreed upon during Erdogan’s Nov. 13 visit to the White House — has fed expectations that the United States would keep the threat of sanctions suspended and that Turkey would delay the activation of the S-400s while the contacts continued.

Yet the schedule agreed on between Ankara and Moscow appeared to be on track Nov. 25-26 as F-16 jets flew over Ankara to test the S-400. Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said Turkey never intended to keep the system unpacked and never pledged to not activate it. In his meeting with President Donald Trump, Erdogan “made it clear that no one would be allowed to interfere in our sovereignty realm,” Cavusoglu said.

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