Why should Turkey buy
the S-400 and have an armed system independent from the USA ?
– US support for Kurdish separatists and its plan for a great
– The role of Washington in the attempted coup on June 15, 2016
and the use of US Gulenist against Turkey.
– Trump’s announcement of an economic war against Turkey.
Facing threats from the United
States, to ensure their national security, Turkey began to look for alternative
armed systems. Although Turkey is a member of NATO, it has become a target of
Washington. Because of this, firstly the Americans stopped supplying the
necessary weapons, secondly the armed systems dependent on the USA did not meet
the needs of present times.
In this regard, Turkey decided to buy
the Russian anti-aircraft missile system S-400, which annoyed Washington very
much, and the crisis between the two countries has grown. Even Trump’s
administration saw this purchase as a betrayal and has threatened Ankara
On this issue, we reached out to
Turkish political scientists and military experts to discuss the S-400 crisis
with them and the actual needs of the Turkish Army for its armed system.
“INCREDIBLE DEGREE OF MISTRUST BETWEEN US AND TURKEY”
Commenting on Turkish-American
relations for USA Really, Prof. Dr. Hasan Ünal, an expert on Turkish foreign
policy, pointed out that there has been a security and political dimension all
“There has been an incredible degree
of mistrust between the two NATO allies. The US’s efforts to carve out a
Greater Kurdistan in the Middle East of Iraq, Syria in particular, and Turkey,
linking it through a corridor to the Eastern Mediterranean is certainly a very
disturbing element in US-Turkish relations from Ankara’s point of view.
Notorious US efforts to bolster up the PYD in Syria, for example, despite
repeated warnings from Ankara, have fostered this mistrust to a considerable
degree. Ankara does not presumably think that it is going to have to encounter
Russia or any Russia-backed force in the foreseeable future in this part of the
“TURKEY WILL NOT CHANGE ITS MIND”
On the other hand, everyone is
wondering if these threats of sanctions repeatedly pronounced by US officials
about the purchase of the S-400 air defense systems from Russia will scare off
Turkey. Prof. Ünal emphasizes that Turkey’s decisions are already determined by
the needs of the country, and not by threats from the Atlantic:
“I would say that it is less likely
than otherwise that these threats are going to make Turkey give up. To put it
into some perspective, Turkey desperately needs air defense systems. It would
like to buy and jointly produce these systems together with Russia, and
Russia’s agreement to sell these sophisticated weapons and to produce them
together with Turkey at a later stage is an important inducement. Secondly, and
perhaps more importantly, Turkey had earlier approached the US with a view to
buying them from it but it had been turned down by Washington. The US not only
did not want to sell its Patriot missiles, which are not as effective as the
S-400s, but it also did not agree with Turkey’s offer of co-production, let
alone transfer the technology to Turkey. After Turkey made a deal with Russia
about the purchase of the S-400s, the US appears to be more than willing to
sell the Patriots but I suppose that it is too late.”
WHAT CHARACTERIZES S-400s AS COMPARED OTHER AIR DEFENSE SYSTEMS
After Prof. Unal explained the
geopolitical reasons for purchasing the S-400s, we asked Beyazıt Karataş, the
retired Air Force Major General (TUAF), the following question: Is the S-400
responsive to Turkey’s military needs? First he said that the most important
indicator for NATO and the West is their opposition to Turkey’s territorial
integrity; In this case, it is necessary to question the relations of alliance
with these simple facts and take measures accordingly. Then, he told us about
the characterization of S-400s as compared to other air defense systems:
“The S-400 Long Range High Altitude
Air Defense System has properties two to five times better when compared to
other long-range high-altitude air defense systems in terms of their ability,
as shown in the table.”
Why should Turkey buy the S-400 and have an armed
system independent from the USA?
ARE THE S-400s DANGEROUS FOR NATO?
Having found such an expert, it was
imperative to find out whether the S-400 was a danger for NATO, as Washington
said it is:
“The S-400 is an air defense system
and not an attack weapon. In particular, Turkey, having felt the lack of a
long-range system since the 1990s will fill an important gap in its
high-altitude air defense system. Very clearly ‘our country, our motherland’
will constitute a threat and it will be used against enemy attacks. This means
that it is a system to be used against threats from an enemy country, as it is
raised most, not directly against NATO, but from the air, whether it is coming
from a NATO member or any country.”
“S-400s ARE ENOUGH FOR TURKEY’S DEFENSE”
Then the conversation with Major
General Beyazıt Karataş came to the most important point: Are the S-400s enough
for Turkey’s defense?:
“There will never be an air defense
system alone. Because every air defense system itself needs air defense
protection. In contrast, in the S-400 contract with Turkey, Russia will provide
a significant deterrence for the protection of our airspace.
The S-400s will enter our inventory
in the 2019-2020 year, according to the agreements to be made to produce our
future long-range high-altitude national air defense system. Turkey will make
an important contribution to the experience and Turkey-Russian political
relations, the military, the defense industry, and the economic dimension will
contribute to this development.
As a result, the US and NATO are
still hoping that the S-400 agreement will be canceled, as happened with China.
The US is putting all sorts of pressure and blocking against Turkey and
threatening not to provide F-35 aircrafts if Turkey buys the S-400. It is seen
that the US will continue these threats and blackmail until the end. The
implementation of the agreement signed on the supply of Russia’s S-400, for
safety, also holds great importance in terms of cooperation with neighbouring
countries and prestige in the international arena.”
“THE F-35 SYSTEM WILL DAMAGE TURKEY IN TWO WAYS”
On Turkey’s agenda there is not only
the purchase of the S-400s, but American F-35s are also being discussed. Major
General Karataş considers the F-35s very dangerous for Turkish defense.
According to Karataş, in case of a possible war with the US, Turkey could lose
control of these fighters. He says that Turkey has other reliable alternatives:
“As it’s known, in January 2019, US
President Donald Trump signed the 2019 year budget, and according to the
relevant clauses contained in it, if Turkey buys S-400s from Russia, they will
prevent the delivery of F-35 aircraft, sa they have repeated in every platform
and continues to repeat.
Meanwhile, the Trump administration
will try to compensate for possible radical steps regarding Turkey as Congress
has done so far. Indeed, in the case of the S-400 coming to Turkey, Congress
would not execute the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act
(CAATSA)–the US State Department would decide. Of course, the State Department
will have to move with instructions from Trump. However, Trump may not be able
to bypass the Congress in these processes.
Technical characteristics of the F-35
aircraft include invisibility, a combination of antennas, sensors and
cryptographic links to enable NATO to operate jointly, to transfer information
to land maritime and other elements. These features can create the perception
of “perfect planes.” But from the national logistics point of view, as
particularly important considering the problems experienced between Turkey and
the US, the F-35 will be out of Turkey’s control. The F-35 system will damage
Turkey in two ways.
The first is the Autonomic Logistics
Information System (ALIS) and the second Performance Based Logistics (PBL). You
are now procuring services from a US company and transferring logistics
planning to the US nationally. For example, you want your 25 planes to be
active. Under the agreement with Lockheed Martin, the parent company of the
F-35s, the company manages this system to provide the activities of these
aircraft to keep 25 active. So you can’t manage the activity of your own
aircraft. You cannot manage your own logistics system according to the old
national system. Yes, this method is economically good, but Turkey-US relations
are not as they used to be.
As a result, the US does not give the
F-35s to do Turkey a great favor. Because of Turkey’s decision on F-35s, the
Air Force will make Turkey 100 percent dependent on the US. This will prevent
the development of our national aircraft. While the Turkish Air Force has
already been tied to the US by 90-95 percent, it should be lowered. The F-35’s
polished, exaggerated charm to be in the US’s orbit will make you 100 percent
dependent on the US.
If Turkey does not buy the F-35
aircraft, it won’t be the end of the world. Turkish-Russian military relations
are not limited to the intake of air defense missiles, they are also increasing
cooperation in space with the production of joint combat aircraft (TF-X), which
should be among the priority targets. We can also say that the chance to
develop new collaborations outside the US and NATO is now much more important
and this is the exactly what the US fears.”
“A NEW ERA IN RUSSIAN-TURKISH MILITARY RELATIONS”
All our interlocutors emphasized the
importance and necessity of an armed system independent from the United States.
According to the Turkish political scientist Prof. Ünal, since it’s admission,
Turkey has learned to develop some sort of an independent security policy for
itself. He recalled that initially in the 1950s and early 1960s, it was perhaps
like a US/NATO garrison in the Middle East and the Balkans and after the
arrival of the infamous Johnson Letter in Ankara, in the summer of 1964, Turkey
certainly moulded an independent foreign policy, though it remained in NATO:
“It was after this 1964 policy
re-evaluation that Turkey began to cultivate the best possible relations with
the Soviet Union, a period that continued right up to the 1980s and even after.
During these years, Turkey and the Soviet Union were on the best possible terms
on trade and economy and, short of cooperating in security matters, they
cultivated very good relations indeed.
Since the end of the Cold War, things
took a sharp turn for the better. Despite the Syrian crisis and the shooting
down of a Russian fighter jet by Turkey, relations between Ankara and Moscow
seem to be steady, and the purchase of the S-400s and possibility of
co-production of several systems including S-400s seem to be heralding a new
era in Russian-Turkish relations in which cooperation on security and military
matters would well be on the agenda too.”
TURKEY CHOOSES ITS FRONT
Based on this, we can say that
serious conflict and possible clashes with the United States force Turkey to
have an armed system independent from NATO. In this sense, Russia and China are
potential partners for Turkey.
Turkey’s choice of the S-400 is not
only an economic or technical choice. Although the S-400 has better properties
compared to other systems, Turkey’s purchase of the S-400 primarily comes from
geopolitical and strategic reasons. Turkey is choosing its front, its side. It
is responding to threats from the United States by relocating in Eurasia.
And this is not a choice but a
necessity for Turkey. Turkey cannot survive in the Atlantic system, and
maintain its territorial integrity and overcome the economic crisis. That is,
to continue to exist, Turkey needs Eurasian cooperation.
Beyazıt Karataş is
a retired Air Force Major General (TUAF). Major General KARATAŞ served as the
2nd Tactical Air Force Command Chief of Staff in 2005-2006, and the 8th Main
Jet Base Commander in 2006-2007. After being promoted to the rank of Major
General on August 30, 2007, he served as Deputy Commander of Air Training
Command and was assigned to the post of Deputy Undersecretary for Technology
and Coordination of the Turkish Minister of National Defense (TMND) from
September 10, 2007 to August 13, 2010. Major General KARATAŞ was assigned as
the Deputy Commander of 2nd Tactical Air Force Command in 2010-2012 and retired
from the Turkish Air Force on August 30, 2012. He has more than 3000 flight
hours on different types of aircraft.
Hasan Ünal is
an expert on Turkish foreign policy. He holds a Ph.D. from Manchester
University, Britain, where he lived between 1986 and 1993. Upon his return to
Turkey, he took up a teaching job at Bilkent University, Ankara, in the
Department of International Relations. Having worked at several other
universities in Ankara, he recently moved to Istanbul Maltepe University.