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Friends and Allies
Turkey Close to Buying Air Defenses— from Russia

Turkey’s Defense Minister has announced that Turkey is close to buying the advanced S-400 air missile defense system from Russia. As Reuters reports:

Turkey’s talks with Russia about the purchase of the S-400 air missile defense system have reached a “final stage”, although this does not mean a deal will be signed immediately, Defense Minister Fikri Isik said on Friday.

Isik also told a news conference that NATO countries have not presented a “financially effective” offer on an alternative defense system. NATO member Turkey in 2015 canceled a $3.4 billion tender for a long-range missile defense system that had been provisionally awarded to China.

Turkey then said it would consider developing a missile system locally, but that stance later shifted. [….]

He said Turkey would not be able to integrate the S-400 into the NATO system.

Turkey’s drive to acquire an advanced air missile defense system has dragged on for years, but the announcement that they’re close to finalizing what would likely be a multi-billion dollar deal comes at a critical time in Turkey’s relationship with NATO and the West. A large-scale arms deal with the very country that has been most aggressively confronting the Western-led international status quo in recent years would be yet another symbol of a Turkey that is less and less oriented towards NATO and the EU—and the values those bodies represent—and towards what seems likely to be a more Ottomanist and Islamist government under the leadership of a newly empowered Erdogan.

Much remains to be seen about how Erdogan intends to wield his new powers on the world stage, but a move that distances Turkey from NATO while bringing it militarily closer to Russia may be a sign of things to come.

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  • I see no problem here. The Cold War is over. Turkey is not part of Europe, her toehold notwithstanding. And we were dumb to provoke Russia in Ukraine. I bet a lot of people in the US and EU feel the same way.

    • Fat_Man

      We did not provoke Russia in Ukraine. That was the Euniks, who did it all by themselves while Obama was inhaling his own fumes.

  • Anthony
  • D4x

    More likely Turkey is pre-empting a post-referendum NATO scolding; even more likely a short-term tactic before the USA-supported Syrian Kurds attack ISIS in Raqqa.

    We’ll see…

  • Fat_Man

    Too repeat myself in this space:

    1. Turkey has no strategic or economic importance to the US.
    2. Erdogan is an Islamist, anti-American dictator.
    3. The US should either throw Turkey out of NATO or quit NATO, or both.
    4. The US should stop using the Incirlik air base and destroy it on our way out.

    • Mike

      Because of its location, Turkey is of paramount strategic importance for both the US and Europe. They would not be in NATO otherwise.

      • Andrew Allison

        I agree. Turkey is, at least at present, both a forward base for US operations in Afghanistan and the Middle East, and threatens Russia’s Southern flank. It is also an important source, via pipeline, of European oil and gas. http://www.globalresearch.ca/war-oil-and-gas-pipelines-turkey-is-washington-s-geopolitical-pivot/13171 is somewhat dated (2009), but illustrates out the significance of yet another Obama administration failure. The only other candidate for force projection in that neck of the woods is Israel, which might not be anxious to be seen to be too close to the Great Satan.

        • Fat_Man

          It is 1500 mi. by air from Incirlik to Herat the westernmost city in Afghanistan. Of that, 900 mi is over Iran. If Turkey is important to our logistics in Afghanistan we need to get out of Afghanistan because our position there is unsupportable. Of course even if Turkey is not part of our logistics in Afghanistan, we need to get out of there because our logistics are dependent on our enemy Russia and our frenemy Pakistan.

      • Fat_Man

        Really? If you control Turkey what else do you control? Bulgaria?

        • Mike

          You don’t need Turkey to control Bulgaria. For that there is a submarine. Very very powerful. It can drill all the way through in no time.

          • Fat_Man

            ??

        • Anatolia does straddle the two continents of Europe and Asia, it is the point where the Western and the Eastern civilizations have historically met, and as such does contain considerable strategic significance.

          Even the U.S. wanted to use Turkish territory as a means to launch its invasion of Iraq in 2003.

          I am not a great fan of Erdogan, but had Turkey become part of the Soviet bloc decades ago, the Cold War might never have been won.

          • Fat_Man

            Look. Turkey is the center of the slums. It is not worth a nickle. Its utter disappearance from the space time continuum would not make a bit of difference to the life of any American.

      • f1b0nacc1

        What, precisely is of any real value in Turkey’s location? The Cold War is over, and the straits are not (if they ever were….there is considerable debate about that) of any real value at this point. Turkey was considered important following WWII because of a huge strategic miscalculation by the Truman administration, and this is why it was brought into NATO. Now that we have been freed of the consequences of that error, it is time to acknowledge it and move on. The Turks have little to offer, and do not belong in any conclave of civilized nations.

  • Unelected Leader

    Good. Russian systems are not interoperable with American ones for NATO. One more inch toward a hopeful exit from NATO for the former republic of turkey.

  • Erdogan is leaning away from the European Union and towards Russia despite the fact that both he and the former is staunchly against Assad and the latter is strongly supportive of his regime.

    I honestly do not know what he plans to achieve with this erratic foreign policy. Unless Erdogan decides to leave NATO, Putin will never trust his country entirely either…so instead of strengthening connections with his neighbors, Erdogan is actually subtly alienating them.

    In any case, the Kurds are a far more reliable ally in the Middle East for the West.

  • Mike

    The key sentence in Isik’s announcement is this: “NATO countries have not presented a “financially effective” offer on an alternative defense system”

    They are merely trying to get a better price by using the Russian offer as a leverage. This might work.

    • f1b0nacc1

      Unlikely. The real problem with the Turkish specs for an AD system is that they want a technology transfer, which they will not get from the West, but might get from the Russians. There is simply no way that any Western AD system is going to be cheaper than what the Russians would sell (note: you get what you pay for), and the Turks cannot possibly be foolish enough to believe otherwise.

      • Mike

        They want to get a good stuff for a good price. Everything is negotiable, anything can be used as a leverage. They may, for example, abandon the idea of a technology transfer in exchange for a sizable discount.

        • f1b0nacc1

          Actually no, not everything is negotiable, and good AD systems are absolutely not on the ‘negotiable’ list. The Russians love to see equipment cheap (perhaps they think that they will make it up in volume?…grin), but the West doesn’t tend to play that game. Now the Turks could do a good deal with the Israelis, but I rather doubt that a dyed in the wool Islamist like Erdogan is going to go that route. The French are always looking to make a deal, but their existing AD systems are awful (particularly the area AD that the Turks are looking for), and the less said about the Brits and German offerings the better. That leaves the US, and I think you can understand that isn’t going to work out too well.

          The Turks are not going to abandon technology transfer because they want to build their own defense industry, and this is the only way. It isn’t as if they have any engineers who can create their own tech, after all. Tech transfer is NEVER cheap (ask the Indians), and the Turks actually understand this. Look at their tank industry for an example. No, this is about getting some functionality and tech transfer cheap, and the only sellers of any real value at this point are the Russians, who have a nice (though unexceptional) line in area air defense systems.

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