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Comprehension of the S-400 Crisis

Turkey’s air defence has had a severe weakness for decades. Hence, Turkey was in a position to base its air defence on fighter aircrafts. It proves the fact that Turkey has a lack of medium-altitude and high-altitude air defence systems. This is a critical vulnerability for a country like Turkey. The countries surrounding Turkey are considered to have ballistic missile capabilities. They also control the missile defence systems. Naturally, it demonstrates that Turkey is in a problematic geography for security. Therefore, Turkey must have an air defence system. For this reason, Turkey has requested from NATO, historical partners of Turkey since 1952, to reinforce its air defence system against the ballistic missile threat. Ergo, between 2013-2015, the U.S., German and Dutch’s Patriots took up military duty in various cities in Turkey.

Hereupon, because of the off-duty of these deployed Patriots systems, since 2015 and 2016, Spanish Patriots and the Italian SAMP-T‘s have been carrying out military duty at the southern part of Turkey under the umbrella of NATO.These solutions are evaluated to be temporal in order to meet Turkey’s air defence system needs; additionally, the strategic necessity of these systems are too vital to be left to another country’s control.

Ipso facto, Turkey initiated a tender and negotiated with several countries. As a result of this tender, in 2013, the Chinese company had won the tender, but due to some pressure of the USA and NATO countries, Turkey had to cancel the agreement. The displayed reason was that the Chinese company has previously penalized by Washington. At the meantime, the purchase of the Patriot missile defence system from the United States also negotiated in 2013, but due to the U.S. refusal to share the technical specifications of the Patriots with Turkey and the high cost of the system, Turkey desisted from the MIM-104 Patriot. Therefore, decision makers started to work with different countries in order to purchase the air defence system to fulfil its need. After several meetings, Turkey’s expectations in terms of price, delivery, co-production and technology transfer allowed Turkish bureaucrats to approach S-400 purchasing positively with Russia.

After the signing of the agreement between Turkey and Russia in September, 2017, Turkey acquired two S-400 systems with a total of four; two will be produced in Turkey and batteries from Russia for $2.5 billion. In line with statements made by Turkish officials, the first delivery of the S-400 took place in recent months, as of 2019.Some days after the parts of the S-400 system began to get transported to Ankara, the U.S. Department of Defence officially announced at a press conference by the Pentagon that Turkey would be removed from the F-35 Joint Air Strike Fighter program. The U.S. and other F-35 partners are aligned in this decision to suspend Turkey from the program and initiate the process to remove Turkey from the program formally. The decision was taken jointly with the founding partner countries of the F-35 program (Australia, Canada, Denmark, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway and the United Kingdom). The only discernible difference here is that the move was taken against Turkey’s decision to purchase Russian-made S-400 air defence systems.The U.S.’ argument is that the use of the S-400, some sensitive information of F-35 technology and important electronic intelligence, might change hands. However, the same dangerousness also present for Russia because the S-400 system is at the centre of Russia’s air defence. Russia is also opening up the performance of its system to NATO member states and therefore to NATO.

Moreover, Russian weapons are still in active use in many countries. Eastern European countries have the most Russian weapons. Aircraft, tanks, even missile systems and helicopters are still on duty. Many of these countries are under the umbrella of NATO today. Moreover, Greece, Bulgaria and Slovakia, which are also NATO members, use Russian-made S-300s which is considered still among one of the most potent medium-range air defence systems in the world, while Turkey has been criticised for acquiring the S-400 air defence system from Russia. Further, Greece acquired the S-300 systems from the Greek Cypriot Administration while they were in NATO. Another NATO member, Bulgaria, is known to have S-300 systems. Slovakia has S-300 missile battery inherited from Czechoslovakia. Slovakia had asked for its air defence system to be modernised by Russia in 2015. Astonishingly, Greece system participated in the joint military drill conducted by the Greek and Israeli Air Forces. The fact that Slovakia’s Air Force, which participated in a joint exercise in France and Germany , also brought in S-300 missiles was welcomed as contributing to NATO countries’ experience with these missiles. Bulgaria also tested its S-300 missiles at 2015 in another military exercise with Slovakia. Obstreperously, the U.S. has not made a definitive comment on the activation of the S-300 missile system mentioned above when used by NATO countries. Notwithstanding, Turkey has been signaled by the U.S. to be devastated with additional sanctions while calling the missile purchase an “unacceptable” move. Herein, the application of double standards on Turkey is plain to see.

Turkey has played essential roles within critical operations under NATO. Turkey’s role within the organisation is remarkable. Turkey is a durable and robust country of NATO and has been a reliable ally of the USA, even though Turkey’s capacity to take responsibility for NATO is beyond dispute. It is Turkey’s own decision to buy the S-400. Every NATO member country can buy any weaponry in accordance with the decision of their state interests.

It is some kind of attempt to isolate the Republic of Turkey, even with its allies, by removing it from a programme it is a partner in and applying another standard to Turkey compared with some other NATO members. This is a significant point to highlight. While Turkey has fulfilled all its responsibilities to NATO, it is incredibly wrong that its acquisition of the S-400 should not be associated with the F-35. This is a negative image that contributes to Turkey’s disengagement from NATO. The political and economic pressures applied or that would be applied and would interfere with Turkey’s sovereignty rights do not coincide with NATO’s spirit of alliance. Turkey must decide its future and what type of weapons to buy without any political pressure from any country.

This article was originally published on https://moderndiplomacy.eu

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Berk Can Kozan

He achieved his BA Degree from the Eastern Mediterranean University in Cyprus and obtained his MA degree from University of Pécs in Hungary. His main research fields concern on nuclear deterrence, international security and foreign policy issues, international relations’ theories, and internal/external affairs of Turkey. Currently, he is a third year PhD student at the National University of Public Service in Hungary.
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