Turkey: Could its Russian deal damage NATO?
The S-400 system: A clear threat to America’s F-35s
“The U.S. and Turkey—one of Washington’s key NATO allies—appear to be on a collision course this summer,” said Jonathan Marcus in BBC.com. Turkey has agreed to buy 100 F-35 stealth fighters, the U.S.’s most advanced warplane, and Turkish pilots are already receiving training in America. But that $9 billion deal is now at risk because Ankara is also intent on buying Russia’s S-400 anti-aircraft missile and radar system, a $2.5 billion purchase that “raises all sorts of security concerns.” The air-defense system, due to be delivered in July, could let the Russians “learn weaknesses in the stealth fighter jets,” said Conrad Duncan in Independent.co.uk. As Pentagon official Katie Wheelbarger explains: “The S-400 is a computer. The F-35 is a computer. You don’t hook your computer to your adversary’s computer.” Should Turkey receive the Russian system, as President Recep Tayyip Erdogan says it will, the Pentagon will cancel the F-35 sale. The U.S. will then have to find new contractors to manufacture “more than 900 parts for the aircraft that are currently produced by Turkish companies.” Furious U.S. lawmakers are warning Ankara that it will be hit with sanctions if it goes through with its Russian shopping spree.
NATO doesn’t trust Turkey anymore, said Michael Thumann in Die Zeit (Germany). Ankara says it can’t afford the U.S.-made Patriot air-defense system, but can it really afford the cost of replacing its military’s Western-produced equipment with Russian arms? It used to be the U.S. that cajoled Europe to keep Turkey close and pressed for the EU to admit the Muslim-majority country. But Washington now considers Ankara a “recalcitrant, ungrateful partner drifting toward Moscow,” working with Russia in Syria against the Kurdish militias who fought ISIS. Germany has already relocated its troops and aircraft from Turkey to Jordan, and the U.S. is wooing Greece, which it hopes could one day host the warplanes currently at Incirlik Air Base in southern Turkey. Most NATO nations would gladly give Turkey the boot, but the alliance has “no procedure to throw out unwelcome members.”
It’s America, not Turkey, that has been a bad ally, said Kilic Bugra Kanat in the Daily Sabah (Turkey). The relationship began to sour in 2003, when Turkey refused to let the Bush administration use Turkish bases to attack Iraq. The infamous “hood incident” that same year—when U.S. troops arrested Turkish special forces in northern Iraq, hooded them, and detained them for days—was seen as American retaliation. More recently, the Obama administration chose to fight ISIS by arming Kurdish militants, the very separatist terrorists that Turkey had been fighting for decades. Following the 2016 coup attempt against Erdogan, the U.S. refused to extradite the Turkish cleric our government says masterminded the plot, Pennsylvania resident Fethullah Gulen. And President Donald Trump, as punishment for Turkey’s arrest of a U.S. pastor accused of spying, hit our economy with crippling sanctions. For Turks, it’s clear that no matter who is president, the U.S. has “total disregard” for our national security. ■