The U.S. and Turkey are still on a collision regarding the imminent delivery of Russian S-400 missiles. Some analysts suggest that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has a personal stake in the escalating crisis.
U.S. State Department spokeswoman M.Ortagus warned Tuesday of “real and negative consequences” if the Russian missiles are procured. Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesman Hami Aksoy said Wednesday that the United States should avoid “missteps to harm bilateral relations.”
According to Washington the specified missiles may compromise NATO’s military defense systems, in particular the stealth technology of its latest F-35 fighter jet. Washington is threatening sanctions against Ankara in case it continues with the purchase.
Despite diplomatic pressure and Washington’s offer of its Patriot system as an alternative, Erdogan has remain firm.
According to some information, two missile batteries will be based in Ankara.
Intent to protect Ankara?
“If one of the batteries is truly located in Ankara, where it would have no defensive purpose in protecting vital assets against foreign threats, then I would think President Erdogan would have a personal stake in this,” Atilla Yesilada of Global Source Partners, a business management consultancy based in New York said, “as the only asset worth protecting in Ankara is the parliament and the palace.
The S-400 battery reportedly would be located at the Akinci Air Base near Ankara. The air base was the headquarters of plotters convicted in the 2016 failed coup attempt, in which 251 people died. Erdogan’s palace and parliament were repeatedly bombed during the putsch.
Three years on from the coup attempt, mass arrests of military personnel are continuing. On Monday, prosecutors issued 176 warrants for armed forces members in an operation encompassing the army, air force and navy. Since the coup attempt, Turkey has purged 716 fighter pilots.
According to the international relations expert Soli Ozel of Istanbul’s Kadir Has University: “The choice of the S-400 suggests where you expect your enemies to come from.”
Ankara blames Washington for its decision to buy the S-400, claiming the reluctance of then-President Barack Obama and Congress to sell Patriot missiles forced it to turn to Moscow. However, questions remain about the military rationale of procuring Russian missiles.
If there is any logic in it?
“From a military point of view, there is no logic at all,” said retired Turkish Gen. Haldun Solmazturk, who now heads the 21st Century Turkey Institute, an Ankara-based research organization.
“Air defense requires the highest degree of integration,” he said. “This is a NATO-wide integration, including fighter-bombers, the command-control air defense system, et cetera.” Air defense in NATO is a solid and integrated system, he said, and “introducing the Russian-made S-400 system would be unthinkable.”
“Turkey does not need an anti-missile system,” said Yesilada. “Who possibly would attack us with missiles? The only countries that have such potential are Russia and Iran, and they are allies. No one else has an arsenal with long-range missiles.”
However, Ankara insists, the S-400 will also enhance its rapidly expanding indigenous defense industry, through technology transfer. “With God’s will, we will start joint production. There are no problems,” Erdogan told reporters Wednesday.
Taking into account long history of Russia-Turkey relations coloured with different disputes, disagreements and sometimes even conflicts and the fact that their interests in some corners of the world are different, it’s quiet probable that Russia-Turkey cooperation will be limited only with purchase of Russian military equipment. The two countries will likely continue to be partners, but only in their political declarations. It may happen that Turkey will turn to the United States as the latter proposes plenty of opportunities in different areas. In any case it remains to be seen whether Turkey will decide leave its ‘old’ partner…