For Missile Defense, Turkey Chooses Russia Over NATO

In a deal that signals a turn away from the NATO military alliance that has anchored Turkey to the West for more than six decades, Turkey has agreed to pay $2.5 billion to acquire Russia’s most advanced missile defense system, said media reports.

According to the Turkish official as quoted by the media, Turkey is slated to produce two S-400 missile batteries within the country after it receives two S-400 missile batteries from Russia within the next year according to the preliminary agreement.

He couldn’t immediately comment on details of a deal with Turkey, said a spokesman for Russia’s arms-export company Rosoboronexport OJSC.

Amid protests and condemnation from NATO, Turkey had been forced to scuttle deals that it had reached earlier and had advanced to the point of an agreement on a missile defense system before.

A state-run Chinese company had been sanctioned by the U.S. for alleged missile sales to Iran and Turkey gave up an earlier plan to buy a similar missile-defense system from earlier under pressure from the U.S.

Playing a key role as a frontline state bordering the Soviet Union, Turkey has been in NATO since the early years of the Cold War. But with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan pursuing a more assertive and independent foreign policy as conflict engulfed neighboring Iraq and Syria, ties with fellow members have been strained in recent years. It’s relationship with the European Union soured as the bloc pushed back against what it sees as Turkey’s increasingly autocratic turn and tensions with the U.S. mounted over U.S. support for Kurdish militants in Syria that Turkey considers terrorists. After Turkey refused to allow German lawmakers to visit troops there, Germany decided to withdraw from the main NATO base in Turkey, Incirlik, last month.

Konstantin Makienko, an analyst at the Center for Analysis and Technology, a Moscow think-tank said that the missile deal with Russia “is a clear sign that Turkey is disappointed in the U.S. and Europe”. “But until the advance is paid and the assembly begins, we can’t be sure of anything.”

The official said that Turkey would not be subject to the same constraints imposed by the alliance, which prevents Turkey from deploying such systems on the Armenian border, Aegean coast or Greek border even though the Russian system would not be compatible with other NATO defense systems. The official added that Turkey can now deploy the missile defense systems anywhere in the country allowed by the Russian deal.

Transfer of technology or know-how is the key aspect of any deal for Bottom of Form

Turkey. The Russian agreement to allow two of the S-400 batteries to be produced in Turkey would serve the Turkish aim of being able to produce its own advanced defense systems.

“There are a lot of different levels of technology transfer,” and any offer to Turkey would probably be limited in terms of sophistication, said Makienko, the Moscow-based analyst. “For Turkey to be able to copy the S-400 system, it would have to spend billions to create a whole new industry.”

Detection, tracking and then destroying aircraft, drones or missiles are among the capabilities of the S-400. It can hit targets as far as 250 miles away and is Russia’s most advanced integrated air defense system. Russia has also agreed to sell them to China and India.

The Turkish official said that it could take about one year to finalize the project as the sides are currently sorting out technical details. If Russia decides to divert it from another country, one battery may be available earlier.

The systems delivered to Turkey could be deployed against any threat without restriction because it would not have a friend-or-foe identification system.

As Turkey seeks partnerships allowing it to enhance its domestic arms production amid a military buildup in the region, U.S. and European rivals have also bid to co-produce missile defense systems with Turkey.

Business have been impacted in NATO because of disagreements between the U.S., the bloc’s biggest military, and Turkey, which has the second-largest army by personnel numbers in NATO. After Turkey insisted on full access to specific software codes, no U.S. companies bid for a Turkish attack helicopter contract in 2006.

(Adapted from Bloomberg)

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