U.S. asks Turkey delay taking delivery of Russian missile; Ankara unlikely to back down
DESPARDES News Monitor – Turkey is discussing with the United States setting up a working group to assess the impact of its purchase of Russian missile defenses systems, but will not delay their delivery, Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Wednesday.
According to reports, Turkey has refused a U.S. offer to buy Patriot air defense missiles. The United States had hoped that by offering Turkey speedy delivery of the missiles this year that Ankara would agree not to go ahead with its purchase of similar Russian S-400s.
Instead, Turkey remains adamant that it will go ahead with the S-400s, which could complicate future U.S. arms sales, especially the delivery of the 100 advanced stealthy fifth-generation Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II aircraft Turkey has ordered.
According to two unnamed Turkish officials cited by Bloomberg, Ankara could not accept the U.S. offer since it did not include either a loan agreement, or a pact to share the system’s technology.
A senior Turkish official this week reiterated Ankara’s position that it would not back down from its planned purchase of the system.
“We will buy the s-400s in July. Our position has not changed,” he said.
But the source said talks on the issue continued.
Commenting on the matter, a senior Pakistani defense analyst said the issue is more political than military or technological. S-400 is not such a magical weapon system that one should risk its alliance with US/ NATO, the expert said on condition of anonymity. “Turkish President wants to take an independent position on various issues like Israel, Syria, Qatar and Muslim world as a whole. Turkey feels that it has gained sufficient economic and military strength that it can afford to take independent view on core issues. The personality of President Tayyip Erdogan is major driver in Turkish policy. Let’s see if Turkey survives this solo flight or not.” He added, “S 400 has become more of a symbol of defiance to US. Who ever wants to signal it’s annoyance with US declares that it will go for S 400. Examples are Qatar and KSA ( both countries have shown their interest in buying S400).”
Another Pakistani defense expert (based in the Middle East) said Turkey may not go for the purchase. “I think Turkey will not buy S-400s…it is using it as a bargaining chip.”
Meanwhile, tensions between Turkey, a NATO ally, and the United States are running high over former’s decision to buy the S-400s which the US says are not compatible with NATO systems.
U.S. officials have called Turkey’s planned purchase of the S-400 missile defense system “deeply problematic.”
U.S. officials say Turkey’s planned purchase would jeopardize its role in building F-35 fighter jets as well as its purchase of the aircraft, which Washington says would be compromised by the presence of the S-400s.
The United States and other NATO allies that own F-35s fear the radar on the system will learn how to spot and track the jet, making it less able to evade Russian weapons.
Ankara says U.S. concerns are overstated and has been pushing Washington to establish a working group to assess the risks the system would be posing to the F-35 jet.
“We are exchanging opinions on how this could work, we will continue to share our views. Once we agree on that, we will decide if there will be a working group or not,” Cavusoglu told reporters in Ankara. “The discussions are ongoing, there is nothing certain yet,” he added.
On Monday, a source familiar with the matter said the United States had asked Turkey to delay taking delivery of the S-400 system, currently scheduled for July, in return for potentially approving the formation of the working group.
“There is no such thing as postponing or cancelling at this stage,” Cavusoglu said. “It’s not on the agenda either.”
Turkey’s neighbor Greece is also a NATO member and possesses Russian S-300PMU-1s, the older brother of the S-400, which are also not interoperable with NATO. Turkey has pointed to Greece’s possession of these missiles and argued that a blatant double standard exists at its expense.
Turkey tried, in 2013, to buy Chinese-made FD-2000 missiles, which are comparable to the Russian S-300, but cancelled due to pressure from its Western NATO allies, who warned Ankara at the time that “their partnerships in certain fields would not be able to continue if Turkey buys missiles from China.”