Turkey buys Russian, European missile defenses, ties with NATO frosty


Russian S-400 Triumph medium-range and long-range surface-to-air missile systems drive during the Victory Day parade, marking the 71st anniversary of the victory over Nazi Germany in World War Two, at Red Square in Moscow, Russia, May 9, 2016.  REUTERS/Grigory Dukor
S-400 Triumph surface-to-air missile systems during the Victory
Day parade, marking the 71st anniversary of the victory over Nazi
Germany in World War II, at Red Square in Moscow, May 9,


  • Turkey says it has finalized a deal to buy Russia’s
    advanced S-400 missile-defense system.
  • Ankara also says it wants to work with NATO countries
    on defense projects.
  • NATO leaders appear to be sending warnings to Turkey
    over the purchase and potential deployment of the weapon

Throughout the summer and fall, Turkey moved ahead with plans to
buy Russia’s advanced S-400
anti-missile defense system

The purchase concerned NATO members and underscored the
contentious relationship between Ankara and the West, but Turkey
said this week that it had been completed.

“It is finished. The S-400 missiles have been bought. The rest is
just details now,” Turkish Defense Minister Nurettin Canikli
said this weekend.

As a NATO member, Turkey would typically buy weapons
interoperable with the defense alliance’s weapons systems, but
Ankara sought out new options after several NATO countries
declined to renew
their deployments of Patriot missile-defense systems in Turkey,
leaving only a
handful there.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said he pursued the
S-400 because the West denied him a comparable system. He has
also expressed frustration with the EU over its response to the
attempted coup against him in summer 2016 and accused the bloc of
messing us about
on issues like visas and Syria migrants.

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan meets with Russia's President VladimirÊPutin at the Presidential Palace in Ankara, Turkey, September 28, 2017. Kayhan Ozer/Presidential Palace/Handout via REUTERS
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan with Russian President Vladimir
Putin at the presidential palace in Ankara.

Thomson Reuters

Ankara’s plans to buy the missile system were “a clear sign that
Turkey is disappointed in the US and Europe,” an analyst at a
Moscow-based think tank said this summer.
In September, a Turkish state-media agency published a graphic
appearing to tout
the S-400’s ability to shoot down US aircraft.

NATO officials, for their part, have warned Turkey about the
consequences of purchasing the S-400. US Defense Secretary Jim
Mattis has said numerous
times that the system would not be interoperable with NATO
weapons systems.

But Canikli also said this weekend that Turkey was making
arrangements with Eurosam, a French-Italian consortium developing
anti-aircraft defense systems.

“We are also making preliminary agreements with the EUROSAM
consortium to have this technology to develop, produce and use
our own sources for air-defense systems,” Canikli said. He
signed a letter of
intent to work with Eurosam on defense projects several days

Ahmet Berat Conkar, the head of Turkey’s delegation to NATO’s
parliamentary assembly, said the day after
Canikli’s comments that the S-400 purchase was not a political
message but a decision based on technical and financial concerns
that wouldn’t hinder cooperation with NATO partners. He also
pointed to the Eurosam agreement as a sign of Turkey’s continued
intention to work with NATO allies.

NATO officials, however, appear to still be wary of the deal and
the looming introduction of a Russian weapons system into the
military of one of their partner forces.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan Donald Trump
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and President Donald Trump in New
York, September 21, 2017.

Pool Photo
via AP

At the end of October, Czech Gen. Petr Pavel, who heads NATO’s
Military Committee, indicated Turkey could be on its own to face
restrictions on participation in NATO air defenses if it went
ahead with the S-400.

“But the same way that nations are sovereign in making their
decision, they are also sovereign in facing the consequences of
that decision,” Pavel said.

Putting the S-400 on Turkish territory would create “challenges
for allied assets potentially deployed onto the territory of that
country,” Pavel continued without elaborating, though he may have been
referring to the F-35 stealth fighter.

Mattis reiterated on Monday that the Turkish S-400 system would
not work with NATO weapons and that Ankara would responsible for

“Clearly, it will not be interoperable with NATO,” he told reporters. “So
they’re going to have to consider that if they go forward.”

When asked about Turkish claims there was no alternative to the
S-400 offered by the West, Mattis said only, “That’s a sovereign
decision for Turkey.”

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