The US has given Turkey two weeks to pull out of a deal to buy Russian S-400 missile defence systems. Otherwise, Turkey can expect a variety of unpleasant repercussions.
America’s attempts to dissuade Turkey from buying S-400 Triumf missile defence systems from Russia have become like a long-running TV series. For several months now, the Americans have been trying to persuade Turkey to back out of the deal, while the Turks have been refusing to do so just as stubbornly. Apparently realising the absurdity of its position, Washington has given Ankara a final warning. As the US State Department has pointedly emphasised, however, it is really a final ultimatum.
Despite the fact that there is not really much to think about, since Turkey has stated many times at the very highest level that the deal to buy the S-400 systems is closed and not subject to review (the last time was by the Turkish president and Turkish foreign minister just last week), Washington has nevertheless given Turkey another two and a half weeks to rethink. By the end of the first week of June, Ankara must announce the termination of its missile contract with Moscow, under which the first missiles are to be delivered as early as July, and buy America’s similar (albeit less effective and more expensive) Patriot air defence systems. If Turkey continues to persist, then America is threatening the country with dire consequences, according to CNBC. First and foremost, Turkey will be excluded from building the latest fifth-generation F-35 fighter jets, and the contract to supply 100 of these jets will be cancelled. America is also threatening to impose sanctions on Turkey and even expel the country from NATO.
Incidentally, the White House’s strategy on the S-400 issue is based on the membership of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. The Americans believe that NATO members should buy military technology that is compatible with other NATO systems. The US Patriot air defence system manufactured by Raytheon satisfies this condition, of course, while Russia’s S-400 system does not. It is far from the first time that the Americans have tried to palm off their Patriot system on Turkey, but each time they have been refused. What’s more, the reason for the refusal is not even so much about the high price of the US missile systems, which seems even more so when compared with the cost of the S-400 systems. Unlike Moscow, Washington is refusing to hand over documentation on the Patriot to Ankara.
The agreement to supply Ankara with four S-400 divisions was signed in September 2017. The agreement is worth $2.5 billion, but Russia is to give Ankara a loan for half of this amount.
If Ankara refuses Washington again, then Lockheed Martin, the manufacturer of the F-35, will be forced to change the aircraft assembly process in light of Turkey’s exclusion from the programme.
As it stands right now, there is every reason to believe that Ankara’s position will not change and the Americans can expect another embarrassing rebuttal. Turkey began preparing for the arrival of the S-400 Triumf missile defence systems last year and building missile sites. Satellite images clearly show concrete launch facilities and bunkers.
“Ankara is ready to accept the delivery of S-400 missile systems as soon as Russia is ready to deliver them,” said Turkey’s foreign minister, Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, last week in response to a question from journalists about whether the deliveries would begin in July.
If everything goes according to schedule, then the Russian missiles will enter combat duty next year. A group of around 100 missile specialists from Turkey are to go to Russia at the end of May to learn how to use the S-400 air defence system.
Incidentally, after confirming Ankara’s unchanged position last week, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan once again delighted the US by announcing that Turkey will participate with Russia in the production of S-500 defence systems.
As for Washington’s biggest problem – that the Russian weapon is incompatible with other NATO systems – here Ankara does have something to say. Turkey has stated that it will not integrate the S-400 into NATO’s air defence systems despite being confident that this is an invented problem. Erdoğan has also proposed setting up a joint commission with experts from Turkey, the US and NATO to investigate whether the S-400 really does pose a threat to NATO military equipment, including the F-35, but Washington is strongly opposed to the idea.