Turkey’s Goals in Buying S400

Strategic Council Online: Turkey, by purchasing S400 missile system, is trying to critically remind the United States of its excessive delay in delivering the Patriot system to Ankara on the one hand, and intends to demonstrate its independence in military decision-making beyond what the US and NATO determine, on the other hand. Siamak Kakaie - Turkish Affairs expert

The Turkish Ministry of Defense announced on July 12 that Ankara had received the first shipment of S400 defence system and transferred them to the Murted Air Base in Ankara province. Moscow and Ankara signed an agreement on the supply of the S400 systems in 2017, but the deal faced severe criticism of the United States. Washington threatened Ankara if it purchased the Russian missile system it would be blacklisted by the US.

The implementation of the project on the supply of the Russian S400 missile system to Turkey shows that Ankara is serious in the realization of its decision. It seems that psychologically the credit of the implementation of the agreement between Turkey and Russia goes back to the Turkish President, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan who seems to be trying to put forward an independent policy.

Nonetheless, concerning the context of the wide-ranging debate on the S400 missile system, and the question that what are the knots and points of disagreement between the United States and Turkey, as well as NATO and Turkey, and why this is becoming a serious challenge between the US, NATO and Turkey, there are a few points that must be taken into account:

The first point is about Turkey’s goal of purchasing the S400 missile system; Turkey’s main objective in this regard is to equip the country’s military with new arms, and in this context, it seeks to transfer the arms technology or launch joint arms production line with Europe, America, and Russia.

The second point is that Turkey is looking for multiple sources of arms and military equipment, and in this context, the contracts Ankara has signed with Russia for the purchase of the S400 have become a challenge among the Western allies of Turkey. They argue how is that Turkey which is a NATO member and an ally of the West has resorted to Russia for the supply of military equipment. The West considers this Turkish move detrimental to the type of agreements and cooperation Ankara has with NATO.

The third point is that Turkey, by purchasing S400 missile system, is trying to criticize the United States for its excessive delay in delivering the Patriot system on the one hand, and intends to demonstrate its independence in military decision-making beyond what the US and NATO determine, on the other hand.

The question now is what the reasons are for US and NATO criticism of Turkey, and why the US says it would slap sanctions on Turkey if it buys S400 missile system, and why NATO has also adopted a tough stance against Turkey?

The first factor is that Turkey has been a NATO member and an ally of the West for the past several decades and has had military and intelligence cooperation in the context of the same policies NATO has defined; therefore failure to observe the rules or cooperation of a non-NATO member with a NATO member can be worrisome for NATO member states. Even the argument has been raised by NATO that other members might later be encouraged to buy missile systems such as S400.

Secondly, the Americans have announced that this move by Turkey could disrupt the Washington-Ankara cooperation in military contracts, such as the manufacture of F-35 parts. The United States has declared that if Turkey signs a deal with Russia it would not be able to forge military pacts with the United States. This may mark the end of Washington-Ankara cooperation in making F-35 parts and the sale of the same aircraft to Turkey. These issues may also affect the strategic cooperation of the two countries.

Another issue is that both NATO and the United States are worried his cooperation may result in Russia’s access to part of NATO and US military and security information through Turkey in terms of the exchange of security or military information.

So, in this context, these concerns have become grave and it is likely for the United States to impose sanctions on Turkey. At present, the contract for the delivery of a number of F35 parts in the framework of the US cooperation with nine parties, including Turkey, may be overshadowed by Ankara’s purchase of the S400 system and the United States may make changes in its program. However, Erdogan has said that Turkey, in the form of arms cooperation with Russia, was not seeking alternatives to replace other countries, but, according to Erdogan, the regional conditions and the condition of the Turkish air and missile system required the country to equip itself with the new missile system particularly that the Americans were also making obstructions in delivering Patriot missiles to Ankara.

Finally, it seems that Turkey’s major goal in purchasing the S400 missile system, apart from strengthening its missile system, is to “maximize” its military power and equipment with the aim of influencing some regional equations, both in the Middle East region and in the Eastern Mediterranean. In fact, Ankara may be seeking to boost its bargaining power. The recent tensions between Turkey and Cyprus and Europe over the issue of drilling and extracting gas from the coasts of Cyprus or the tensions between Turkey and Greece are questionable. Therefore, with regard to these tensions, Turkey may somehow seek to balance its military capability in the region and show its determination to have an independent policy against Europe.

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