On A Visit To Moscow, Erdogan Reaffirms S-400 Missile Purchase & Adds Fuel To Row With The U.S.

Fuad Muxtarlı Analysis 9 April 2019
On A Visit To Moscow, Erdogan Reaffirms S-400 Missile Purchase & Adds Fuel To Row With The U.S.

Turkey's insistence to procure the Russian S-400 missile that has been a major source of tension with Washington for a long time has added fuel to the fire with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s visit to the Kremlin for another round of talks with the Kremlin boss Vladimir Putin on April 8.

Tensions further intensified after U.S. Vice President Mike Pence said that Ankara "must choose" between NATO allies and Russia. The Pentagon also took a decision to halt deliveries of F-35 fighter jet equipment to Turkey. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan did not make a step back in Moscow and again said Turkey's purchase of Russian S-400 air defense systems is a "done deal".

"If we have an agreement, this issue is done. This is our sovereign right, this is our absolute right. No one can ask us to give it up," Erdogan said in Moscow.

Russian expert on why Erdogan needs Russian S-400

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has confirmed that despite U.S. protests, his country will buy Russian anti-missile systems S-400. Moscow has offered more favorable conditions than Washington, he said. However, a Moscow expert believes that in fact Turkey does not need either American planes or Russian missile defense systems. Erdogan simply uses this card to play a double game, the expert opined.

“The U.S. did not provide us with the same favorable conditions as Russia when it made a proposal for the sale of Patriot air defense system,” the Turkish leader said. “So, we’re not interested in purchasing a Patriot right now and deliveries of S-400 will begin in July.”

The decision by NATO member Turkey is causing serious concern to the U.S. The Pentagon believes that the Russian missile complexes could jeopardize the security of NATO. The radars installed on them allegedly will be able to collect information about American F-35 fighters, which Turkey has also ordered. Washington threatened to cancel the delivery of the planes, if Ankara does not abandon the Russian missile defense system.

“Turkey must choose,” said US Vice President Michael Pence. Will it remain the most important ally of the most successful military alliance in the world? Or does it want to risk the security of this partnership by making irresponsible decisions and undermining the alliance”? Such a language suggests that the U.S. threatens to exclude Turkey from NATO though the expert believes the threats should not be attached great importance to.

“Turkey, in fact, needs neither our S-400s, nor the American F-35s for defense,” Alexey Arbatov, head of the Center for International Security, said in a comment. No-one will attack it: neither Russia, nor NATO, nor Iran, nor Syria, much less the Kurds. Therefore, it is trying to play its political game on the contradictions between Russia and the United States. And the chips in this game are American shipments of F-35 fighters and Russian shipments of S-400,” the expert opined.

Erdogan can freely conduct this “simultaneous game session” indefinitely, and on several “chess boards”, as in his time Ostap Bender did. And in the Black Sea basin, where he does not recognize the annexation of Crimea by Russia, and in Syria, where he does not recognize the Assad regime...

Not to mention the rivalry with Iran and Saudi Arabia. This leader seeks to conquer the position of a regional hegemon, and he “flirts” with everyone. Russia is building a nuclear power plant for him, conducting a gas pipeline, despite the fact that just a few years ago he shot down a Russian jet and rushed under the wing of NATO. Now he is challenging the Americans, Arbatov claimed.

As for Turkey’s cooperation with NATO, there are no articles in the NATO charter to exclude any state from membership. It is unlikely that the alliance will decide to create such a precedent and lose an ally, who has the largest army in NATO after the United States. Let's not forget that Turkey is one of the countries of the alliance, on whose territory American nuclear weapons are located. The U.S. missile defense radar is also located there. So no need to dramatize the statements of politicians, we must treat this as a game,” he opined.

At the talks in the Kremlin with Turkish President Recep Erdogan, Putin said that the priority for Moscow and Ankara is the completion of the contract for the supply of S-400. Addressing the meeting of the Russian-Turkish Cooperation Council, Putin noted that the two countries face "serious tasks to strengthen cooperation," including in military and technical spheres.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan broke all possible records of good-neighborliness: his current meeting with Vladimir Putin is the tenth in a row in less than 1.5 years and the third in 2019. At the same time, the leaders talked at least 20 times on the phone. It is obvious that such an intensive political dialogue is maintained primarily thanks to Syria, where Russia and Turkey are forced to coordinate their steps. However, this time, as stated by Erdogan, he first came to discuss bilateral relations.

The peaceful and constructive agenda of the negotiations is dictated by the meeting of the High Level Cooperation Council, which served as a pretext for the visit of the Turkish leader. This body is engaged in the development of trade, increasing investments and joint projects in various fields - from energy to tourism. In general, they two spoke not about politics but purely on economy plus cultural and humanitarian ties.

A few years ago, the parties set themselves the task of bringing the trade to $100bn, but the turbulence in the energy markets so far makes it impracticable. Welcoming Erdogan, Putin said that despite good growth rates - more than 15%, the total volume of mutual trade hovers around $25bn.

However, there are prospects for a breakthrough. “Large projects are being implemented - this is the Akkuyu nuclear power plant, which we have to launch in 2023, and the Turkish Stream - quite recently the docking of the marine and onshore parts of this pipeline took place,” Putin said.

Erdogan added that the construction of the onshore segment of the pipeline continues as planned. At the same time, a terminal is being built on the Black Sea coast of Turkey. Turkish consumers will start receiving Russian gas from January 1, 2020, the annual volume of deliveries will be 15.75 billion cubic meters, although even now the share of gas in the local market exceeds 50 per cent.

As for Akkuyu, Rosatom may not be in a hurry so far: Erdogan himself wished that the first unit of the station be put into operation in 2023 - on the 100th anniversary of Turkey.