The S-400 system deepens the US-Turkish dispute

The S-400 system deepens the US-Turkish dispute

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The Turkish Defense Ministry announced on Sunday the continued arrival of the equipment of the Russian – made “S400” missile defense system to the country, for the third day respectively. The ministry added in a statement posted on Twitter, “The equipment of the S-400system continues to ship . In this context, a fourth Russian cargo plane landed at the Murted air base in the capital Ankara.
On Friday, the Russian Defense Ministry announced that the arrival of the first group of parts of the Russian –made “S 400” missile defense system to the military airport in Ankara. For its part, Russian diplomatic sources said, the S-400 missile system will be delivered to Turkey in three batches, the first and the second by air and the third by the sea; The S-400 system is one of the most advanced air defense systems in the world today, produced by Almaz-Ante, owned by the Russian government.
The system entered service in the Russian army in 2007, and is an upgrade to the S-300 air defense system, which was developed in the nineties of the last century. The Ministry of Defense in Turkey said in a tweet that “delivery … is done as planned.” The tweet was accompanied by pictures showing the arrival of the equipment to the Murted air base near Ankara and the delivery began on Friday. The question arises in this context: What are the conditions of the Russian sale and Turkish purchase of the S-400 missiles?
The events that took place in Syria after the 2011 revolution put the two countries in two contradictory positions. Russia found an opportunity to apply its military strategy to reach the warm waters of the Mediterranean and to apply its political strategy to support the dictatorial regimes against any form of mass change, while Turkey found itself on the location of supporting the Syrian opposition after the regime rejected any political settlement and fought a bloody war against the demonstrators, and the moment of Turkey’s overthrow of the Russian Sukhoi 24 in 2015 represented the height of the confrontation between the two countries, opening the door to severe political tension between them and Moscow ‘s decision to impose sanctions affecting some sectors of the Turkish economy and tourism.
The decline of the administration of former US President Barack Obama, as well as the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, as well as the European Union, to support Turkey in this confrontation, formed a beginning of drawing a new political line in Turkey, and many accumulations also contributed to the formation , including the position of US to support Militias of PKK in Syria which Ankara regards it as a major threat to its security and political entity, and the US rejected its plans to form a “safe zone” inside Syria. However, the point of divergence between them was the attempted coup d’état in July 2016, and the Western countries did not condemn it quickly, and there were many Turkish doubts about the possibility of a US approval of the coup, while news reported that the Russian intelligence services, in turn, informed the Turkish intelligence service, the possibility of a coup hours before it occurs.
Turkey sees this system as a strategic necessity at a time when it faces threats on its southern border with Syria and Iraq. It says that when the S-400 missile system deal was signed with Russia, the United States and Europe did not offer a suitable alternative. Turkey said the Russian system was achieving its expectation in terms of the price and technology and hoped to cooperate with Russia in developing the next generation of the system, S-500 system, as well as benefit from technology transfer and co-production. Ankara says the S-400 is not a direct threat to the US military. It suggested forming a technical working group that could include NATO to discuss US concerns about the potential impact of the system on US F35 fighter jets. Turkey says the United States has not responded to its proposal so far.
The United States opposes the deal, saying the Russian missile system is not in line with NATO’s defense network, and that the missiles could pose a threat to the US Lockheed Martin F-35 fighter aircraft, Phantom , which Turkey assists to the manufacturing of it and plans also to buy it. .
The Turkish deal also contravenes US legislation known as the US Sanctions Bill, countering America’s Adversaries, a law that would impose sanctions on countries buying military equipment from Moscow. The missile deal would also complicate US policy in the Middle East by increasing tensions with Ankara at a time when Washington is exerting pressure on the international level to isolate Iran by stopping its oil exports. Turkey has been a major buyer of Iranian oil for a long time but has stopped buying so far. There are also differences between the United States and Turkey over the conflict in Syria and other issues.
In its attempt to persuade Turkey to abandon Russian missiles, the United States offered to sell it a Patriot missile defense system manufactured by US Raytheon Company. The Turkish defense minister said Turkish and US officials had entered into discussions on price issues, technology transfer and co-production in the US offer Ankara received in late March. However, no agreement has been reached so far. Several NATO member states also provided Patriot batteries to protect Turkey’s southern border during the conflict in Syria.

Washington has repeatedly said Turkey would face “real and negative consequences” if it went ahead with the purchase of the Russian missile system, including halting the purchase of the F35 aircraft as well as its participation in the aircraft industry program and will be subject to its sanctions under the US Sanctions Act , countering America’s adversaries . If the US excluded Turkey from the program of F-35 fighter jets and imposed sanctions on its partner in NATO, it would be one of the biggest differences between the two countries in recent history.

However, Recep Tayyip Erdogan has repeatedly expressed confidence in his relationship with President Donald Trump, who has expressed sympathy for the Turkish position. In a meeting with Erdogan in June, Trump blamed the administration of former President Barack Obama for failing to help Turkey acquire Patriot missiles instead of the S-400. Theoretically, the US president could not apply the law to counter America’s adversaries through sanctions or to postpone applying it, However, US officials said the Trump administration was still planning to impose sanctions on Turkey and exclude it from the F-35 fighter program.
The adoption of US sanctions on Turkey will be a double-edged sword. It will mean more political and military divergence between Washington and Ankara, this means that there will necessarily be more rapprochement between Turkey and Russia, which if escalated would be a strange new equation, Turkey which is a member of NATO , the second largest military force after the United States itself, will rely more and more on military cooperation with Russia, which continues to show its public defiance of any progress made by NATO in Europe or elsewhere, and this military equation will push the West to two hard options : Either give up Turkey for the benefit of Russia with what it has posed a significant breach of the balance of power in Europe and Asia, or attempt to restore it with what it requires from a real understanding of the reasons that led to this new equation.

Turkish Studies Unit
Rawabet Center for Research and Strategic Studies