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Erdogan: Turkey inks deal to buy S-400 Russian missiles

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said Tuesday that Turkey has signed a deal to buy Russian S-400 missiles. He made the announcement while addressing the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) lawmakers in parliament.

He said the era of a submissive Turkey bowing to every Western demand is over. "The West wants Turkey to do, without question, whatever they want ... I am sorry to say that Turkey no longer exists," Erdogan said.

There is no harm in Turkey’s missile defense system purchase from Russia, Turkish President said in response to U.S. top general’s concerns over the issue, the Turkish daily Hurriat reported Tuesday.

“Why will it cause tension? A country should be in search for the ideal ways for its own security,” he said.

Greece is a NATO member and has been using Russian-made S-300 systems for years, Erdogansaid. 

“We have now taken steps with Russia about this issue. Deals have been inked. In God’s will, we will see S-400 missiles in our country and precede the process with joint production,” he said.

Turkey was not able to cooperate with the U.S. over the missile system, the president noted, adding that this was why Turkey was seeking alternatives.

Erdoğan’s remarks came days after U.S. Gen. Joseph Dunford, U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff chair, said that Turkey and Russia could not agree on the procurement of the missile defense system.

“It would be a concern, were they to do that, but they have not done that,” Dunford reportedly said at a security forum in Aspen, Colorado on July 23, when asked about media reports on Turkey purchasing the Russian system.

Turkey will cooperate with France and Italy on developing a national missile defense system project, Deputy Prime Minister Fikri Işık said on July 4, when he was the defense minister, adding that the focus was on the “development of systems” rather than purchasing. 

However, the country will meet its immediate demands by buying S-400 systems from Russia, he said, adding that “All technical work is completed.”

The S-400 is an anti-aircraft and anti-missile system capable of intercepting all types of modern air weaponry, including fifth-generation warplanes, as well as ballistic and cruise missiles at a maximum range of nearly 250 miles, according to Sputnik news agency. The Russians have an S-400 missile system operating in Syria after Turkey shot down one of its military aircraft in 2015.

Tension with US & EU

Turkey has been in NATO since the early years of the Cold War, playing a key role as a frontline state bordering the Soviet Union. But ties with fellow members have been strained in recent years, with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan pursuing a more assertive and independent foreign policy as conflict engulfed neighboring Iraq and Syria, Bloomberg said adding:

"Tensions with Washington mounted over U.S. support for Kurdish militants in Syria that Turkey considers terrorists, and the relationship with the European Union soured as the bloc pushed back against what it sees as Turkey’s increasingly autocratic turn. Last month, Germany decided to withdraw from the main NATO base in Turkey, Incirlik, after Turkey refused to allow German lawmakers to visit troops there....

"Disagreements between Turkey, which has the second-largest army by personnel numbers in NATO, and the U.S., the bloc’s biggest military, have also impacted business. No U.S. companies bid for a Turkish attack helicopter contract in 2006 after Turkey insisted on full access to specific software codes, which the U.S. refused to share, considering it a security risk. Turkey partnered with Italy instead in a $3 billion project to co-produce 50 attack helicopters for its army."

Arms deal is a political issue

The S-400 deal "is a clear sign that Turkey is disappointed in the US and Europe," Konstantin Makienko, an analyst at Moscow-based think tank the Center for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies, told Bloomberg. The licensing agreement allowing Turkey to produce S-400 batteries domestically would save it some of the billions needed to create a new industry, Makienko said.

The S-400 system would "close Turkish skies," to Western aircraft in particular, Makienko, the Moscow-based analyst, told Russian news site Vzglyad. "If the Turks really purchase Russia's missile defense systems, it will be a tectonic shift, a game-changer in the arms market," he said.

“Arms purchases are not only about arms purchase,” according to Nihat Ali Ozcan, an analyst with the Tepav think-tank. “This is a political and economic issue as well.” The S400 system can be an advanced piece of kit to combine into Turkey’s air defense system, Ozcan added.

Abdus Sattar Ghazali is the Chief Editor of the Journal of America (www.journalofamerica.net) email: asghazali2011 (@) gmail.com

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