US Vice President Michael Pence said that Turkey would have to make a choice between a partnership with NATO and buying an S-400 air defense system from Russia.
– Turkey must choose. It wants to remain a critical partner in the most successful military alliance in history or wants to risk the security of this partnership, to make reckless decisions that threaten the entire alliance, – the vice president said.
The Turks, however, did not reach into their pockets for the word, and immediately replied to their American partners.
- The United States must choose. Do they want to remain an ally of Turkey or risk our friendship, joining forces with terrorists to undermine the defense of NATO’s ally against enemies? – wrote the country’s Vice-President Fuat Oktay on his Twitter feed, apparently hinting at the support of Kurds by the Americans.
This is not the first such statement by US officials. Washington is extremely negative about Turkey’s desire to buy Russian air defenses and threatens with harsh retaliatory measures, even refusing to supply F-35 fighters.
On March 1, 2019, a representative of the US Department of Defense Lt. Col. Air Force Mike Andrews said that “in anticipation of the unequivocal decision of Turkey to refuse to purchase C-400, equipment supplies and other actions relating to the F-35 for the Turkish Air Force were suspended.”
However, the Turkish side declares that it is not going to abandon the Russian complexes. Moreover, the contract worth $ 2.5 billion was signed back in July 2017, and the funds were reportedly transferred. Initially it was expected that deliveries would begin in March 2020, but then the process was accelerated, and the dates shifted to the summer of 2019.
The United States, however, in addition to the conventional “stick” and uses the carrot. On April 3, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Cаvusoglu announced that the United States had offered Turkey to supply its own Patriot air defense system. But there are no guarantees that they will actually do it, and therefore the purchase of the S-400 is a “resolved issue”.
Experts describe the current situation with the expression “a scythe found a stone”. On the one hand, the United States has many levers of influence on Turkey. On the other hand, this country is extremely important for NATO and Washington and is a key regional partner. In addition, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is confident that he can afford to pursue a more independent policy. True, the past local elections, as a result of which the ruling party lost the majority in Istanbul and Ankara, may somewhat undermine its position, but they are still strong.
Even the US embargo on F-35 supplies may not be such a terrible measure. For example, the American edition of The Drive claims that the disruption of supplies could push Ankara to buy Russian Su-57 fighters, which Washington would not like.
Therefore, most likely, the bargaining of all parties will continue. And not only Turkey from the USA, but, probably, Turkey from Moscow. It cannot be ruled out that Ankara will ask for additional preferences for the fact that it suffers losses due to the complication of relations with NATO.
- The threats from the Americans against Turkey due to the purchase of the S-400 are constantly going on, and the arguments are the same – these complexes are incompatible with NATO standards,” explains the senior scientist of the IMEMO RAN Viktor Nadein-Rayevsky.
– But in many respects the US itself is to blame for the current situation, since it all started with the fact that they once refused to sell Patriot systems to Turkey.
And when, finally, agreed, the Turks began to ask too much. They wanted to produce these systems on their own territory, which was unacceptable for the United States, as it implied the transfer of American technology. These differences led to the purchase of S-400 by Ankara.
At the moment, the supply of S-400 by Turkey has already been paid, we have provided a loan for it and thus brought this operation to the end. The systems have already been produced and are ready for shipment this year. The supply includes not only the transfer of systems, but also the training of Turkish personnel for operational management.
Americans insist that the transfer of S-400 systems implies the transfer of certain NATO codes to the Russian side, because the air defense system must be adapted so that it does not shoot down NATO planes. If they are not entered, any aircraft will be perceived as an enemy and will automatically become a target. This is the main reason why NATO reared because of the deployment of the S-400 in Turkey.
Our country believes that it is quite possible to combine the two systems, and there is nothing fatal in this, but this is unacceptable for Americans. But Turkey needs air defense systems, and therefore they have taken a principled position. They insist that they are not going to break the contract with Russia.
– Can it get to the exit from NATO?
– Turkey was not going and is not going to leave NATO. And in fact it does not necessarily come to this. Deliveries of the S-400 is not the first time that we have supplied NATO countries with air defense systems. At one time, we sold the air defense system to Cyprus, but then it caused such indignation from the Turkish side that we agreed that these S-300s should be taken by Greece, and now they are located on the island of Crete. So there is nothing impossible here.
– How else can Americans affect Turkey?
– The first thing that will be undertaken (and has already begun to be undertaken) against Turkey is the refusal of supplies and withdrawal from the consortium for the production of engines of F-35 fighter jets. Turkey received the first two machines, but still had to buy from 30 to 50 aircraft. Now the United States is going to stop these shipments.
But the fact is that Turkey is a participant in the project to build these aircraft. About 20 Turkish companies are involved in the production of equipment parts. In order to bring Turkey, will have to look for other suppliers. NATO, however, claims that everything can be done in three months, but this is not so easy. Turks are involved in the production of technologically complex parts.
Another point is that the F-35 is made by a private company, so the official authorities in theory have no right to interfere in its activities. But when it comes to revenge on someone, they do it. Now they are trying to influence the Turks, removing them from this project. But the Turks say that nothing terrible, they can buy Russian planes. So I found a scythe on a stone.
– And they can really replace the F-35 with our Su-57?
– Our fighters are at a high level. High enough. They were repeatedly compared with the Americans. Someone stands on the fact that the F-35 have the advantage, someone proves that our fighters are better.
Su-57 belong to the generation of 4+ or even 4 ++, that is, upgraded to the extent that they are not inferior to the enemy of the fifth generation in the air. We are working on other air vehicles. I would not say that we are far behind, as shown by the actions of our videoconferencing in Syria. Not to mention the fact that our planes are cheaper than their western counterparts by at least 30%. In general, there is something to argue about, this is a real alternative to the Western options on which Turkey relies.
At the same time, I repeat that Turkey did not express a desire to withdraw from NATO. For them it is not easy at all. All military equipment on their weapons produced by NATO standards. They often disagree with our standards, especially with regard to guidance systems, recognition of one-to-others, and so on.
This is an extremely difficult question, although our specialists are able to adapt anything to anything. Of course, we once ruined a lot of advanced branches of the military industry “thanks to” the measures of a market economy. But now all this is being restored, although the process is not yet complete.
Oleg Ponomarenko, a military expert at the Center for Strategic Conjuncture, believes that the United States does not want to lose Turkey, so bargaining will continue. But in the end, it is impossible to exclude any scenario from the refusal of Turkey from the S-400 to its withdrawal from NATO.
– In this matter, the value of Turkey for the North Atlantic Alliance and the Americans is fundamental. Any tough steps, including the exclusion of Turkey from NATO, will cost the West dearly both economically, technically and politically.
In fact, they work with a major regional player, the value of which can be compared with Saudi Arabia for the United States. And now you need to either refuse or seriously complicate the relationship with this player. What we hear is, first of all, to be considered as an element of strong pressure on Ankara and an attempt to impose one’s opinion in order to leave it in the field of interaction with NATO. The value of Turkey for the West and the United States is very high.
Therefore, it is necessary to consider not only the statement of Pence, but also statements that were made by other high-ranking officials and the President of the United States. For example, the other day. Pentagon chiefs Patrick Shanahan said he is optimistic about this situation. And Trump himself promised to take care of this problem. There are no specifics, but these statements suggest that Americans understand the value of Turkey and do not want a break.
Of course, one cannot exclude a hard option, but I think that a compromise is possible. So far this situation will remain at the level of pressure and bargaining.
– Can Turkey give up the S-400, succumbing to US pressure?
– And this is also possible. It is clear that the amounts are large and the deal is serious, but nothing can be excluded. We consider the situation from the point of view of rationality, but extreme options are possible. For example, Turks refuse S-400 and buy systems from Americans. Or, on the contrary, the Americans refuse to supply F-35 to Ankara and restrict NATO membership.
The third option is a compromise. It is possible after a serious aggravation in the summer, when the physical deliveries of S-400 Turkey should begin. For example, Americans can offer Ankara some kind of counter deals. Now we can only follow this bargaining.
– And with us, Turkey can start bargaining to get some compensation for complicating relations with NATO?
- This development is also possible. The Turks themselves declare that they proceed only from their own interests. They are sure that they can act as they see fit, and they have enough strength to do it. Is it so or not – a separate question, but I do not exclude that we can hear some new requirements from them.