Alwaght- The first delivery of the Russian S-400 missile defense system to turkey would take place within 10 days, President Tayyip Erdogan said on Sunday a day after he said there would be no US sanctions over the deal.
“Within 10 days, maybe within one week, the first shipment will have arrived. I told Trump this openly,” Erdogan was cited as saying by Hurriyet newspaper after a meeting with US President Donald Trump.
Turkey and the United States have been at loggerheads for months over Ankara’s purchase order for the S-400s, which the US claims are incompatible with NATO systems and the Lockheed Martin Corp’s F-35 stealth fighters.
Washington has given Ankara until the end of July to cancel its purchase of the Russian missile defense systems or see another deal — for the purchase of F-35s from the US — canceled.
But on Saturday, Erdogan said Trump had told him there would be no sanctions over the Russian deal, after Trump said Turkey had been treated unfairly over the move.
After Erdogan’s comments, the Turkish lira strengthened 1.5% early on Monday to below 5.7 against the dollar. The dispute over the S-400s has long been a source of concern for investors.
“So (a) green light from Trump to Turkey to go ahead and get S400s - or that is now the Turkish view,” said Tim Ash, senior emerging markets strategist at BlueBay Asset Management.
“I would imagine U.S. diplomat and defense department officials are in disbelief - Trump is like the proverbial bull in the China shop,” he added.
After the Trump-Erdogan talks, the White House said Trump “expressed concern” over the S-400 deal and “encouraged Turkey to work with the United States on defense cooperation in a way that strengthens the NATO alliance.”
Speaking to reporters after the G20 summit in Japan, where he held bilateral talks with Trump, Erdogan said he believed the dispute over the S-400s would be overcome “without a problem” and added that his US counterpart supported Turkey in the dispute.
“In our phone calls, when we come together bilaterally, Mr Trump has not said so far: ‘We will impose these sanctions.’ On the S-400s, he said to me: ‘You are right.’ We carried this issue to a very advanced level,” Erdogan said, according to broadcaster NTV.
“At this advanced level, Trump said: ‘This is injustice’. This is very important. I believe that we will overcome this process without any problems,” Erdogan added.
He said the two leaders had agreed to delegate officials to follow the issue. He also said Turkish and US foreign and defense ministers would “open the doors” to resolving the matter.
In an effort to sway Turkey, the United States has offered to supply it with Raytheon Co Patriot missiles.
Erdogan was quoted by NTV as saying: “One S-400 is worth three Patriots. If the conditions are even equal to the S-400 (deal), we would buy Patriots, but if they are not, then we have to think of our interests,”
Erdogan also said that he hoped the issue of Turkish lender Halkbank, which faces US Treasury sanctions over an Iran sanctions-busting case that has further strained ties between the allies, would be resolved soon, NTV said.
Sanctions necessary if Turkey installs S-400: US Senator
American Senator Lindsey Graham contradicted the Erdogan's claim and said f Turkey installs the Russian missile system it is expected to receive this month, it will be sanctioned as per U.S. law, and unable to receive U.S. F-35 fighter jets
Appearing on CBS’ news show Face the Nation, Graham was asked about Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s statement that U.S. President Donald Trump had made assurances that Turkey would not face sanctions for receiving and activating the Russian S-400 missile defence system, “It's impossible,” said Graham, referring to the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA), passed in 2017. “Under our law, if Turkey...activates the S-400 missile battery they bought from the Russians, sanctions would be required.”
Graham pointed out that the U.S. Senate passed legislation last week banning the sale of F-35 stealth fighters to Turkey if it installed the Russian system. “There's no way we're going to transfer to Turkey the F-35 technology and let them buy a Russian missile battery at the same time. It would compromise our platform,” he told CBS.
A set of reasons encourage Turkey to go after S-400 deal. Here are some of them:
1. The agreement to buy the Russian-made air defenses has so far been crucial to the improvement of the relations between Ankara and Moscow. Turkey shares permanent geopolitical interests with Russia and can never ignore them. The Russian president managed to launch a set of military operations inside the north of the war-ravaged Syria, including Afrin, Manbij, and Jarabulus towns, by getting the green light from Kremlin. The operations were vital to the Turkish interests while the West declined to support them and even opposed them.
2. The weakness of the Arab world leaders and being blackmailed into buying the American-made weapons have been the source of humiliation to them by the Trump administration. This left a negative picture of the Arab rulers in the eyes of the Muslim and Arab world’s public. But Erdogan is resisting the American pressures to save his charisma as the key figure in the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and develop a high-profile image of himself in the regional public minds.
3. The US has so far rejected to deliver the Patriot missile system to Turkey. By moving to buy the S-400s, Erdogan creates a positive balance and a competition between Russia and the US. Erdogan’s game yielded some results. Over the past few months, Washington offered Ankara delivery of the Patriot missiles. Turkey’s FM in early March said that Turkey and the US were negotiating the purchase of the Patriot systems. The Israeli daily Jerusalem Post in a recent report speculated that Turkey was given open hands in Syria’s north to act against the Kurds based on agreements with Washington in return for it to cancel S-400 purchase.
However, Turkey is not much confident of the West. It has its own justifications. For example, the US took equivocal stances in the dispute between Erdogan and Fethullah Gulen, a Pennsylvania-based Turkish opposition leader who is accused by Erdogan of arranging the failed military coup of 2016. Additionally, Ankara is in full mistrust in its key NATO allies in Syria’s sensitive regions. For example, the dispatch of the French and American troops to Afrin came after Turkey launched a military campaign, codenamed Operation Olive Branch, in January 2018 to wrest the town from the Western-backed Kurdish fighters. The deployment set off the alarm bells for Turkey not to rely much on the West. The possible designation of the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organization will complicate the already-frayed relations with the White House and compound the mistrust. So, Turkey seeks to equip itself with the S-400s to make up for the distrust.
4. West Asia’s regional structure is apparently based on the balance of power. Considering the Saudi Arabian plan to buy the S-400s and Israeli regime’s development of the domestically-developed Iron Dome, Turkey finds it unavoidable to preserve the balance of power by promoting its air defense capabilities with the Russian systems.
5. The S-400 is economical for Turkey. Ankara can procure it for $2.5 billion, $1 billion cheaper than the Patriot. Moreover, the two sides agreed the price will not be paid by the US dollar and the payment can be made after the delivery in installments.
Why does the US oppose the contract?
The US and NATO show objection to Turkey equipment with the S-400 systems for a couple of reasons. Buying heavy weapons like air defenses from Russia will make Turkey regulate its strategic relations with Russia based on the Moscow-supplied arms. This, on the other side, could push to lower levels the Turkish-American relations. Washington finds Turkish closeness to West’s rival harmful to the American interests.
The US insists on the Israeli military superiority over the other regional states. Equipping Turkey’s military with the S-400s will be read against the Israeli superiority agenda. Furthermore, once Turkey finally gets the Russian systems, it will scale down its military dependence on the Americans. Additionally, the Americans argue that procurement of the S-400s by Turkey and its integration into the NATO-connected Turkish military will reveal data of the American-supplied weapons, such as the F-35 stealth fighter jets, to the Russians. In response, Ankara argues that Greece, a NATO member, has Russian-made S-300 systems but it did not pose risks to the NATO military facilities and data security.
One main drive for the White House opposition is the damage the deal inflicts on the American military industries. With the deployment of the S-400s, the American-supplied F-15 and F-16 fighter jets operating in air defenses’ range will become practically unviable. This will stir a fierce competition in West Asia and North Africa for buying the Russian-made anti-aircraft and missile systems. Countries like Greece, Morocco, and Algeria will be pushed to update their heavy weaponry, meaning a drop in the demands for the F-15 and F16s. in such conditions, only the F-35 is useful. But Washington cannot supply it to any demanding party due to security limits. So, many states already using the American warplanes will have to boost their airspace with Russia’s S-400. These consequences are the root cause of the American opposition to and concern about the Turkish-Russian contract.