Turkish Arms Rift Reveals Awkward Truth: NATO's Goal Is Weapons Sales, Not Defense
October 30, 2017
AntiWar.com & Defense News & Bloomberg
It's generally assumed that NATO member nations are going to import their weapons from NATO arms dealers, which pretty much always means the United States, with a few small deals for Britain and France. But, in looking to upgrade their air defense system, Turkey had a choice: to buy the advanced Russian S-400 systems, or more expensive, US-made alternatives. Turkey chose to buy Russian, and NATO isn't happy.
NATO General Threatens 'Consequences'
For Turkey Buying Russian S-400
Turkey Announced Air Defense System Purchase in September
Jason Ditz / AntiWar.com
(October 27, 2017) -- In looking to upgrade their air defense system, Turkey had a choice: buying the advanced Russian S-400 systems, or more expensive, US-made alternatives. Turkey chose to buy Russian, and NATO isn't happy.
While NATO was initially just complaining the S-400 was incompatible with their own systems, top NATO General Petr Pavel told reporters this week that Turkey is likely to be punished by the alliance for not buying American.
“The principal of sovereignty obviously exists in acquisition of defense equipment, but the same way that nations are sovereign in making their decision, they are also sovereign in facing the consequences of that decision,” Pavel insisted.
Pavel dismissed reporter questions about the Turkish government's recent anti-democracy moves, insisting nobody is perfect. Apparently the same leeway does not apply for the question of buying American weapons.
Russia's S-400, and its predecessor the S-300, have been praised as advanced, cost-effective alternatives to American anti-aircraft systems. The US is used to having a virtual monopoly on this market, by ensuring that no one buys Russian without facing some very public criticism.
NATO Official: Turkey Faces
'Consequences' If Purchase of S-400 Completed
Aaron Mehta / Defense News
WASHINGTON (October 26, 2017) -- A top NATO official has warned of “necessary consequences” for Turkey should the alliance member purchase a Russian air-defense system.
Gen. Petr Pavel, chairman of NATO's Military Committee, said Wednesday that while each nation is free to make its own defense decisions, Turkey's planned buy of the S-400 system would preclude Anakara from being part of any integrated air-defense system with NATO allies, and may result in other technical restrictions.
“The principal of sovereignty obviously exists in acquisition of defense equipment, but the same way that nations are sovereign in making their decision, they are also sovereign in facing the consequences of that decision,” Pavel told a group of reporters hosted by the Defense Writers Group.
While Turkey announced its choice of the S-400 in September, Ankara has yet to sign final paperwork on the deal, and until they do, Pavel said it is “fair among allies to have that discussion, to raise all concerns and potential difficulties.”
Other concerns raised by Pavel about the system were “most security” focused, noting that even if NATO missile defense systems are not integrated with the S-400, its mere presence “creates challenges for allied assets potentially deployed onto the territory of that country.”
Notably, Turkey is both a partner nation and a sustainment hub for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter Program, which is central to the future air power of several NATO nations, including the US and the U.K. Some experts have questioned if an S-400 system active in Turkey could gain information about the stealthy jet that could have operational impact down the line.
Still, Pavel said Turkey remains a key part of NATO, even as outside groups have raised concerns that the government of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is sliding away from democracy.
“When it comes to democratic deficits, show me one single nation that is perfect. No one is perfect,” Pavel said. “No one challenges the role of Turkey as an important ally at the very difficult crossroads of challenges to the alliance.”
Aaron Mehta is the Senior Pentagon Correspondent and Associate Editor for Defense News, covering policy, strategy and acquisition at the highest levels of the Department of Defense and its international partners.
Turkey Chooses Russian
Air Defense Over NATO Alternatives
Jason Ditz / AntiWar.com
(July 13, 2017) -- It's generally assumed that NATO member nations are going to import their weapons from NATO arms dealers, which pretty much always means the United States, with a few small deals for Britain and France. Turkey however, is going a different way on air defense, signing a deal to buy a $2.5 billion S-400 system from Russia.
Since the whole rest of the NATO alliance is night and day building up military forces on the Russian frontier, such a purchase is raising more than a few eyebrows, and not just because they aren't going to buy a more expensive alternative from Raytheon or Lockheed.
The deal means Turkey's new air defense system won't be compatible with the rest of the alliance for the purposes of integration, though the S-400 is widely considered among the most advanced in the world. Russia will directly provide two S-400 batteries on the deal, and will also produce two more batteries within Turkey in the future.
This isn't the first time Turkey looked to an alternative supplier outside NATO, as they very nearly bought missile systems from a Chinese company, before the US convinced them not to because the company had sold similar systems to the Iranians.
That Turkey still went outside the alliance may reflect the continued tension with both the US and Western Europe, as well as the Erdogan government's interest in staking out a more independent foreign policy, as the Russian systems likely won't come with the same restrictions on deployments as a Patriot missile battery.
Turkey Chooses Russia Over NATO for Missile Defense
Selcan Hacaoglu / Bloomberg
(July 13, 2017) -- Turkey has agreed to pay $2.5 billion to acquire Russia's most advanced missile defense system, a senior Turkish official said, in a deal that signals a turn away from the NATO military alliance that has anchored Turkey to the West for more than six decades.
The preliminary agreement sees Turkey receiving two S-400 missile batteries from Russia within the next year, and then producing another two inside Turkey, according to the Turkish official, who asked not to be named because of the sensitivity of the matter. A spokesman for Russia's arms-export company Rosoboronexport OJSC said he couldn't immediately comment on details of a deal with Turkey.
Turkey has reached the point of an agreement on a missile defense system before, only to scupper the deal later amid protests and condemnation from NATO. Under pressure from the US, Turkey gave up an earlier plan to buy a similar missile-defense system from a state-run Chinese company, which had been sanctioned by the US for alleged missile sales to Iran.
Turkey has been in NATO since the early years of the Cold War, playing a key role as a frontline state bordering the Soviet Union. But ties with fellow members have been strained in recent years, with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan pursuing a more assertive and independent foreign policy as conflict engulfed neighboring Iraq and Syria.
Tensions with Washington mounted over US support for Kurdish militants in Syria that Turkey considers terrorists, and the relationship with the European Union soured as the bloc pushed back against what it sees as Turkey's increasingly autocratic turn. Last month, Germany decided to withdraw from the main NATO base in Turkey, Incirlik, after Turkey refused to allow German lawmakers to visit troops there.
The missile deal with Russia “is a clear sign that Turkey is disappointed in the US and Europe,” said Konstantin Makienko, an analyst at the Center for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies, a Moscow think-tank. “But until the advance is paid and the assembly begins, we can't be sure of anything.”
The Russian system would not be compatible with other NATO defense systems, but also wouldn't be subject to the same constraints imposed by the alliance, which prevents Turkey from deploying such systems on the Armenian border, Aegean coast or Greek border, the official said.
The Russian deal would allow Turkey to deploy the missile defense systems anywhere in the country, the official said. The partnership could boost Turkey's defense industry and serves the nation's goal of diversifying arms suppliers.
For Turkey, the key aspect of any deal is transfer of technology or know-how, the Turkish official said. Turkey wants to be able to produce its own advanced defense systems, and the Russian agreement to allow two of the S-400 batteries to be produced in Turkey would serve that aim, the official said.
“There are a lot of different levels of technology transfer,” and any offer to Turkey would probably be limited in terms of sophistication, said Makienko, the Moscow-based analyst. “For Turkey to be able to copy the S-400 system, it would have to spend billions to create a whole new industry.”
The S-400 is designed to detect, track and then destroy aircraft, drones or missiles. It's Russia's most advanced integrated air defense system, and can hit targets as far as 250 miles away. Russia has also agreed to sell them to China and India.
The sides are currently sorting out technical details and it could take about one year to finalize the project, the Turkish official said. One battery may be available earlier if Russia decides to divert it from another country, the official added. The missiles are not ready to sell off-the-shelf and Russia will have to produce the batteries before delivering them, the official said.
The official said the systems delivered to Turkey would not have a friend-or-foe identification system, which means they could be deployed against any threat without restriction.
US and European rivals have also bid to co-produce missile defense systems with Turkey, as it seeks partnerships allowing it to enhance its domestic arms production amid a military buildup in the region.
Disagreements between Turkey, which has the second-largest army by personnel numbers in NATO, and the US, the bloc's biggest military, have also impacted business. No US companies bid for a Turkish attack helicopter contract in 2006 after Turkey insisted on full access to specific software codes, which the US refused to share, considering it a security risk. Turkey partnered with Italy instead in a $3 billion project to co-produce 50 attack helicopters for its army.
With assistance by Ilya Arkhipov, and Gregory White.
Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.