Ankara (GPA) – The US has proposed the sale of Patriots missiles to Turkey but in exchange has told Ankara to cancel a contract with Moscow for the S-400.
According to recent reports, a US delegation visiting Turkey this week officially offered a $3.5 billion dollar sale to Ankara of the Patriot missile defense system as has been rumored since mid-2018. However, according to media close to President Erdogan, there are going to be some political hoops to jump through and it is unclear Ankara has the will to do it.
The main motivation behind the US sale of Patriots was initially seen as an attempt by the US to stop Turkey from purchasing the Russian-made S-400 missile defense system. This has now apparently been laid bare according to the media outlet Yeni Safak – an outlet that consistently supports Erdogan’s Justice and Development Pay (AKP) – which says the US has demanded Erdogan back out of his contract with Russia if he wants the Patriots.
This fight between Washington and Ankara has been in the making since the day Turkey decided to purchase the Russian S-400s. This decision by came at a time of renewed Turkish-Russian relations which had been forged in diplomacy surrounding Syria and the decline of US-Turkey relations over a host of issues.
Initially, when Turkey announced their intent to purchase the S-400s. the US attempted to apply pressure by threatening other defense agreements with Turkey. Most notably amongst these was the case of the F-35, the new US fighter which was also built with the cooperation of multiple NATO members including Turkey.
According to NATO, despite the fact that Turkey had poured plenty of their own money into the creation of the F-35 (a program expected to cost a trillion dollars by 2070) they would still not be permitted to actually receive the fighter because of “security risks.” If Turkey was using the S-400, or so NATO says, this would leave the world’s most technologically advanced fighter open to espionage.
Despite all of this, Turkey has still sent several of their pilots and plane crews to the US to train on the F-35 and pledged to spend millions on the plane for their Air Force. Even as Erdogan was making these promises over the summer, Donald Trump signed a bill in August that suspends the sale of the F-35 due to the S-400 and other political factors.
Turkey has still refused to back down from their plan to purchase the S-400s through all of this and now it seems the US has turned to the promise of Patriots as a bargaining chip. According to the piece in Yeni Safak this obvious to Turkey, however, and the government “had been trying to purchase the air defense system from the U.S., but the missiles have never been sold to Turkey when they were needed the most” indicating the uphill battle the US has in trying to earn Ankara’s trust.
There is also the issue of the actual efficiency of the Patriot and the S-400 when compared side by side. Turkey being forced to choose between these two missile defense systems may end up backfiring on the US since Russian systems have repeatedly been shown to be efficient in the defense of neighboring Syria. The Patriot system, on the other hand, according to some recent audits may have never taken down a single enemy missile or jet. Saudi Arabia, another regional power, also uses the Patriot systems and they have been hit multiple times by missiles manufactured by the rebels in Yemen (which even managed to hit the airport in Riyadh).
Some reports seem to imply that this major sale of arms to Turkey is, for all intents and purposes, is already complete however there still seems to be these giant issues the US is going to have to overcome before the sale will be final. As stated above, it also may not be wise to make Turkey pick between the S-400 and Patriot. The contract between Turkey and Russia has already been signed and the first S-400s are expected in October of this year, so if Washington is seeking to make Ankara back out, the clock is ticking.