While the decision has not been made yet, Turkey has said that it is likely to buy a new missile defense program from a Chinese firm, unnerving NATO and American diplomats. A Reuters report from earlier this month said that Turkey is “highly likely” to buy the $3.4 billion program, from a firm under American sanctions, no less.
At first glance, it’s perhaps unsurprising that American disapproval couldn’t deter Turkey from taking the deal. As the New York Times‘s Andrew Finkel reported, competing bids were at least $1 billion more expensive. Also, he writes, “the Chinese take a more liberal attitude about transferring technology — they will, for example, allow Turkish co-production of the weapons. The Chinese sweetened the deal by promising to build a new technology park close to an Istanbul airport.”
But a better deal does not explain the growing chasm between Turkey and its Western allies. Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan was the loudest in his calls for an armed intervention in Syria. After Obama dithered and Putin took over diplomatic efforts, Erdogan felt rebuffed. Likewise when the US declined to support Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi after his ouster, leaving Turkey alone on that front. With relations with the EU still going nowhere despite the reopening of talks, and relations with Israel still frosty, this move may be Turkey’s attempt to find new friends, or to warn its old ones.