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Putin Erdogan Negotiated S-400 Purchase, Some Ask What is the Point?

By Ela Gonca İzmirli

Kremlin spokesman Dmitriy Peskov said today that the Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan talked about a possible delivery of the Russian S-400 air defense system to Turkey.

Asked whether the issue of S-400 shipment to Turkey was on the agenda for the summit of Putin-Erdogan in Sochi, Peskov said, “This issue was addressed among some other military-technical cooperation issues, and the consultations on these matters have been positive.”

Last month Turkish Defence Minister Fikri Isik confirmed that talks between Turkey and Russia on the sale of S-400 missile defense were ongoing, but the system would not be integrated into the NATO system. Isik also said that NATO countries had not presented a “financially efficient offer.”

Former head of the political-military section at the U.S. embassy in Ankara, Ed Stafford, in response to Washington Hattı‘s question said “If Turkey wants to be a faithful, reliable, respected ally, then it needs to source its defense systems from other NATO countries – there is a Franco-Italian system that would be fine or the American system. ”

It is unclear why the Turkish government is interested in buying an air defense system since the primary objective of such a system would be the control of Turkish airspace as well as Turkey’s critical national infrastructure and top-priority economic, military and government facilities from air and missile threats from its neighbors. “Turkey needs an air defense system to defend against missiles from Iran or Russia.  No one else close to them has the capability to launch offensive missiles against Turkey.” Mr.  Stafford said.

All of the neighboring countries to Turkey (including the NATO countries, Greece and Bulgaria) are currently using Russian systems.

Mentioning that the lack of integration to the NATO architecture could also possibly cause some technical problems since missile defense necessitates an advanced network of command and control, sensors, intelligence, target acquisition and surveillance systems, Mr. Stafford said, “If the s-400 is not integrated with NATO air defense networks, and NATO will never allow it, it will function like a one-legged cyclist or a car with four wheels but no tires.”

It seems Ankara is pursuing a dual defense strategy by retaining its role in the NATO’s ballistic missile defense through the X-band radar while using the S-400 defense system independently. But this could be a significant burden on Turkish diplomacy and future defense purchases.

Finally Stafford reminded: ”When World War I began, the largest supplier of ammunition to the Russian Empire was the German Empire.  Or, in the Falklands war, the Argentinians had some success against the British when using Exocet missiles supplied by the French, which the British had also purchased.”

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