Robert Harneis –TDO- (FRANCE) Turkey’s Defense Minister has now confirmed that the purchase of Russian S-400 surface-to-air missiles has been completed. ‘It is finished, the S-400 missiles have been bought. The rest is just details now,’ Canikli said in televised comments in the Black Sea town of Giresun.
Until now the assumption was that the deal remained provisional with NATO hoping it was just bluff by the Turkish government to obtain negotiating leverage in relation to the situation in Syria and the US support of the Kurds.
NATO sources have regularly asserted that the purchase raised concern because the weapons cannot be integrated into NATO defenses. The truth is that the NATO system entails the United States paying 75% of the bills but winning the great bulk of the weapons contracts. This has the added advantage for the United States that all nations that buy US air defense systems, like the Patriot, are vulnerable to US air attack. Thus, the real point is that the S-400 is highly resistant to any Western air attack should Turkey ever decide to quarrel with the US and NATO and the hated Russians not the Americans are making money out of the deal.
Since the end of the Cold War in 1989 Western and notably US power has been based on the overwhelming strength of its air forces and the absence of any serious air defenses in the countries they attack or threaten. This has notably been the case in Serbia, Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya. Once Turkey and other nations such as Egypt and Saudi Arabia arm themselves with genuinely independent and effective air defenses the price of Western intervention is suddenly very high and probably too high.
However, the Turkish government have prudently not burnt all their bridges with the other NATO powers and have been quick to deny that the purchase is in any way hostile to the alliance. Ahmet Berat Conkar, head of the Turkish delegation to NATO Parliamentary Assembly, said the purchase of the S-400 anti-aircraft missiles was solely based on technical and financial reasons. ‘Turkey's picked S-400 over other options because the missile system possesses more advanced technical features than its rivals, with a better price and shorter delivery time,’ Conkar, who is a member of parliament for the ruling AK party, told Al Jazeera. At this point it is worth noting that if what Conkar says is sincere, he is by implication accusing NATO and the United States of attempting to pressure Turkey into buying equipment that has less advanced technical features with a worse price and worse delivery.
In another concialatory move the Turkish government is going ahead with cooperation with France and Italy with a view to developing its own defense systems. It would not be wise to depend on the eternal good will of the Russians any more than the Americans. Note that the deal is with Europeans who are not likely to bully Turkey and not the US.
Referring to the joint Franco-Italian defense project Canikli said ‘We are also making preliminary agreements with the EUROSAM consortium to have this technology to develop, produce and use our own sources for air defense systems’. Canikli signed a letter of intent with France and Italy in Brussels on Wednesday to strengthen cooperation in defense projects including missile defense, Turkish defense ministry sources said last week. They said that as a first step, EUROSAM and Turkish companies will look into a system based on the SAMP-T missile system produced by EUROSAM but Ankara is discussing a further deal with a European consortium to help it develop its own missile defense system, Defense Minister Nurettin Canikli said. That way true independence lies, when at some time in the future Turkey need depend on no outside source for its air defenses.
Assuming that this is not the ultimate bluff, the final confirmation of the purchase of the S-400 system is a considerable slap in the face for the United States and NATO who have both threatened the Turkish government with a view to convincing them not to go ahead with the purchase.
Since the Cold War NATO has had all the characteristics of a protection racket. Now a junior member of the gang has openly broken ranks and defied the Godfather. Watch out for a reaction before too long.