One of the serene privileges being a NATO-member entails, in addition to the permission to participate in military adventurism on behalf of the US, is friendly encouragement to purchase hardware which is “interoperable with other NATO partners”. As a result, the famous protection racke…I mean…defense alliance, was not too pleased when Turkey elected to purchase the Russian S400 air defense system.
Their punishment…you’re going to love it…according to RT, possible US sanctions and may bar Turkey from getting F-35 jets. So in other words, because Turkey purchased the top of the line air defenses, they won’t get the privilege of flying the barely airworthy epic failure that is the F-35.
The new warning came on Thursday from US State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert, who said that Washington has “serious concerns about Turkey’s potential acquisition” of the S-400 anti-aircraft systems.
Under NATO and under the NATO agreement, which of course, Turkey is a NATO member, you’re only supposed to buy, they are only supposed to buy, weapons and other materiel that are interoperable with other NATO partners. We don’t see that as being interoperable,” the State Department spokeswoman said during a press briefing.
While there is much discussion that the S-400 deal may signal closer relations between Moscow and Ankara, and a rift between the later and the US, one must not rule out the possibility that it’s just business. Russia has always made the world’s top of the line air defenses and rocketry, largely a counter to the US dominance or rather, focus on air power. It’s a typical arms race, one side builds the ultimate weapon, another builds the ultimate armor, and so forth, and while Russian aircraft are no joke, Russian rocketry is out of this world…literally…it did put the first man in space.
As a result, while the deal certainly reflects modern trends in relations, one should not imply Turkey is only trading with Moscow to spite NATO. The reality is likely in between; if the Russian rockets weren’t top of the line, or if relations with Moscow were at an all-time low, there would be no deal, regardless of the quality of the S-400s. Likewise, if NATO made a far superior product, or if Turkey was 100% under NATO control, they would have bought NATO interoperable systems, which US Defense Secretary Mattis noted would not include the S-400s.
The RT report continues:
Earlier in April, Assistant Secretary of State Wess Mitchell warned that Ankara’s decision to buy Russia’s advanced complexes exposes Turkey to possible US sanctions and may bar it from getting F-35 jets. “Ankara claims to have agreed to purchase the Russian S-400 missile system, which could potentially lead to sanctions” under the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA), he said. The document was signed back in August 2017 and is mostly aimed at hindering Russian arms exports.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov responded to Mitchell, describing the US threats as “a typical example of attempted blackmail” with the intention of giving American companies “an unfair advantage in market competition.”
Supplies of the ambitious S-400 systems to Turkey are scheduled to start in 2020. However, after Lavrov’s talks with his Turkish counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu in March this year, he revealed that Moscow was ready to speed up delivery of its sophisticated systems.
Foreign Minister Lavrov is likey touching the heart of the issue. This deal has symbolic implications from the position of NATO, and pragmatic ones from that of Moscow. From NATO’s perspective, this deal is an insult and a threat to the monopoly of their military-industrial complex, as well as warning signs that Ankara is going rogue. It’s not as if the US arms industry will really be hurting over this deal. From Russia’s perspective, this is a lucrative business deal which provides an opportunity to strengthen relations with a key regional player.
One should not see this as a point of weakness on Moscow’s part, given the troubling relations with Ankara in the past. It takes strength to deal with a volatile player, and when a major regional power is using your own hardware as the heart and soul of its air defense, it makes you look stronger.
Ankara may be burning the candle at both ends, but despite the centuries of Russo-Turkish Wars – which Russia almost always won – the two powers have a lot in common from a pragmatic point of view, and both have a lot to win and a lot to lose if relations turn south, even if such events would certainly be worse for Turkey, who want to assert themselves as a more independent power.
Turkey controls Constantinople (Istanbul), long considered to be the crossroads of the world, especially in antiquity, and the former “Second Rome”. Moscow is the “Third Rome”, and the great Russian steppe represents a major crossroads between Europe and Asia. Both Russia and Turkey are Eurasian states, Russia to a greater extent, but Turkey is the only other nation which truly fits the description.
For anything to cross into Europe from Asia or Africa by land, it must travel through either Russia, or Turkey. That goes for oil, commodities, or people (terrorists, refugees, or otherwise), all of which can be geopolitically weaponized to one degree or another. For Russia to travel freely from any of her Black Sea ports, especially precious Crimea, a former Byzantine colony, she must also travel through Turkey, though Russia provides the safest and potentially most lucrative means of land transit from China to Europe.
Unless someone builds a bridge across the Caspian Sea, Russia is also the only means of land transit to Europe that does not involve going through the volatile Middle East, and if someone did build that bridge, they would still have to travel through Russia…or Turkey, to get to Europe.
With the greatest economic venture of our days being the New Silk Road, all eyes are understandably on China and Russia, however, one should keep an eye on Ankara as well, like it, or not. All that is certain, is when the S-400 deal is done, Turks can be assured of the safety of their skies.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The Duran.