Turkish quest for Russian S-400 missile defence system

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has reiterated his country’s need for the highly advanced Russian S-400 missile system. “Turkey needs Russian S-400 air defense missile systems. Agreements concerning them have been completed. We hope that we will receive them as soon as possible,” Erdogan further revealed. News about Russian-Turkish talks on the delivery of the S-400 systems first came in November 2016. In September 2017, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced that Ankara had signed a contract with Moscow on purchasing the S-400 complexes and made an advance payment. Head of Russia’s Rostec State Corporation Sergei Chemezov said that the delivery would begin in March 2020. Meanwhile, Washington has warned Ankara that in case it purchased the S-400 systems from Russia, the US may refuse to sell the F-35 fighters to Turkey. The S-400 is the most advanced long-range anti-aircraft missile system that went into service in 2007. It is designed to destroy aircraft, cruise and ballistic missiles, including medium-range ones, and can also be used against ground objectives. The S-400 complex can engage targets at a distance of 400 km and at an altitude of up to 30 km. United States military officials and politicians have expressed concerns over Turkey’s intention to buy the Russian system, and the purchase comes amid a growing rift between Turkey and its NATO allies. Turkey is not the only country buying the state-of-the-art S-400 from Russia. The US said it might consider sanctions against India if it purchases the missile defence system.Washington has also warned that any country engaging in defence or intelligence sharing with Russia could be subject to sanctions. Ahmet BeratConkar, a member of the Turkish Parliament and head of Turkey’s delegation to the Nato Parliamentary Assembly, said Ankara “offered to fully cooperate with Nato allies to eliminate their concerns with regard to the S-400’s installation.” Despite this complex scenario, SonerCagaptay, a senior fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, believes the US and Turkey could find a compromise.

Published in Melange Intl. Magazine September 2018.

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