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Turkey Gets Shipment of Russian Missile System, Defying U.S. Turkey Gets Shipment of Russian Missile System, Defying U.S.
(about 2 hours later)
ISTANBUL — The first shipment of a sophisticated Russian surface-to-air missile system arrived in Turkey on Friday, the Turkish Defense Ministry announced, a process that is expected to incur United States sanctions and will test the NATO alliance. ISTANBUL — Defying strenuous American objections and the threat of sanctions, Turkey began receiving the first shipment of a sophisticated Russian surface-to-air missile system on Friday, a step certain to test the country’s uneasy place in the NATO alliance.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey has been insistent in his determination to purchase the S-400 system, Russia’s most advanced antiaircraft weaponry, despite warnings from the United States. Washington has cautioned that the deal will lead to economic penalties against Turkey, a fellow NATO member, and cancellation of Turkey’s purchase of American F-35 fighter jets. The system, called the S-400, includes advanced radar to detect aircraft and other targets, and the United States has been unyielding in its opposition to Turkey’s acquisition of the equipment.
The United States has been unyielding in its opposition to Turkey’s acquisition of the S-400. American officials have argued that the missile system is incompatible with NATO equipment, and that having Turkey operating both the Russian weapons and the F-35 could give Russia access to the American jets’ secret stealth technology. The installation of the Russian antiaircraft system is deeply troubling to Washington on several levels.
The delivery of the S-400 is likely to worsen strained Turkish-American relations, despite expressions of friendliness between Mr. Erdogan and President Trump at the Group of 20 summit meeting in Japan last month. It puts the Russian technology at the heart of NATO, inside the territory of a key NATO ally one from which strikes into Syria have been staged. The Russian engineers who will be required to set up the system, American officials fear, will have an opportunity to learn much about the American-made fighter jets that are also part of Turkey’s fleet.
It is also a success for President Vladimir Putin of Russia, deepening an increasingly close relationship with Turkey, driving a wedge into the NATO alliance, and advertising the desirability of advanced Russian weapons. That is one reason the Trump administration has already moved to block the delivery of the F-35, the United States’ most advanced fighter jet, to Turkey, and has suspended the training of its pilots, who were learning how to fly it.
Mr. Putin has sought to draw Turkey closer since a dramatic falling-out over the civil war in Syria, in which the Kremlin has backed the Assad regime, while Turkey has supported a rebel faction. Turkey shot down a Russian jet on its southern border with Syria in 2015, and the following year, a Turkish policeman who shouted “don’t forget Syria” fatally shot and killed the Russian ambassador at an art gallery in Ankara. But the problem runs far deeper. A breach with Turkey over the S-400 casts into question the future of the Incirlik air base, a critical post for American forces in the region. And while American officials never discuss it in public, the base is also the storage site for scores of American tactical nuclear weapons, a leftover of the Cold War.
To the minds of Pentagon strategists, the S-400 deal is part of President Vladimir V. Putin’s plan to divide NATO. If so, it is working: American officials are clearly uneasy when asked about the future of the alliance, or even how Turkey could remain an active member of NATO while using Russian-made air defenses.
Strategically positioned at the crossroads of Europe and Asia, and sharing a border on the Black Sea with Russia, Turkey has long been both a vital peg in NATO, as well as one of its more prickly members.
With one foot in the conflicts of the Middle East and a toehold in Europe, its interests have not always easily aligned with an alliance originally forged as a Western European defense against the Soviets. Instead, under the leadership of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey has increasingly played both sides in the East-West struggle.
In 2015, Turkey shot down a Russia fighter jet that strayed into its airspace, but its relations with the United States have also grown increasingly fraught, as the relationship between President Trump and Mr. Erdogan blows hot and cold.
NATO has stationed the American-made Patriot surface-to-air missile system on Turkish soil since the outbreak of the civil war in Syria, but Mr. Erdogan has insisted his country needs its own long-range system.
Turkey tried for years to buy its own Patriot system, but talks with Washington never produced a deal — a result that President Trump, at the Group of 20 meeting last month, said was the fault of the Obama administration.
“It’s a mess,” Mr. Trump said. “And honestly, it’s not really Erdogan’s fault.”
Turkey’s turn to Russia for its own system is a success for Mr. Putin, who has sought to draw Turkey closer since a dramatic falling-out over the civil war in Syria, in which the Kremlin has backed the Assad regime, while Turkey has supported a rebel faction.
The two countries still back opposing sides in Syria, but have avoided further direct clashes and have come to collaborate closely through peace talks led by Russia, Turkey and Iran.The two countries still back opposing sides in Syria, but have avoided further direct clashes and have come to collaborate closely through peace talks led by Russia, Turkey and Iran.
The sale also promises to add to Russia’s growing reach in the greater Middle East.
Moscow’s decisive intervention in the conflict in Syria has cemented Russia’s dominance there, and the Libyan strongman Khalifa Hifter is another beneficiary of its support.
Russia has won friends in Tehran by supporting Iran in its standoff with the Trump administration while also pursuing business, military and diplomatic ties with the American-aligned Arab monarchies. And since the military takeover in Egypt in 2013, Russia has also begun selling jets, helicopters and missiles to Cairo, another key American ally.
Mr. Erdogan has pursued the Russian missile system despite American warnings and the damage that sanctions could do to his country’s already suffering economy, including a renewed slide in the Turkish lira. His party suffered a set of stinging defeats in local elections this year, largely because of the economic recession, his worst political setback in many years.Mr. Erdogan has pursued the Russian missile system despite American warnings and the damage that sanctions could do to his country’s already suffering economy, including a renewed slide in the Turkish lira. His party suffered a set of stinging defeats in local elections this year, largely because of the economic recession, his worst political setback in many years.
Speaking last month, Mr. Erdogan warned the United States not to risk a larger fissure in ties with Turkey over the missile system, and he said he was confident that he could reach an understanding with Mr. Trump to avoid sanctions.Speaking last month, Mr. Erdogan warned the United States not to risk a larger fissure in ties with Turkey over the missile system, and he said he was confident that he could reach an understanding with Mr. Trump to avoid sanctions.
“They should think deeply, because losing a country like Turkey will not be easy,” Mr. Erdogan said of the United States. “If we are friends, if we are strategic partners, then we should handle this issue between each other.”“They should think deeply, because losing a country like Turkey will not be easy,” Mr. Erdogan said of the United States. “If we are friends, if we are strategic partners, then we should handle this issue between each other.”
A NATO spokesman said on Friday that while member nations decide for themselves what equipment to buy, “we are concerned about the potential consequences of Turkey’s decision to acquire the S-400 system.”A NATO spokesman said on Friday that while member nations decide for themselves what equipment to buy, “we are concerned about the potential consequences of Turkey’s decision to acquire the S-400 system.”
“Interoperability of our armed forces is fundamental to NATO for the conduct of our operations and missions,” said the spokesman who, in keeping with the organization’s protocol, declined to be quoted by name. “We welcome that Turkey is working with several Allies on developing long-range air and missile defense systems.”“Interoperability of our armed forces is fundamental to NATO for the conduct of our operations and missions,” said the spokesman who, in keeping with the organization’s protocol, declined to be quoted by name. “We welcome that Turkey is working with several Allies on developing long-range air and missile defense systems.”
NATO has stationed the American-made Patriot surface-to-air missile system on Turkish soil since the outbreak of the civil war in Syria, but Mr. Erdogan has insisted his country needs its own long-range system.
Turkey tried for years to buy its own Patriot system, but talks with Washington never produced a deal — a result that Mr. Trump, at the Group of 20 meeting last month, said was the fault of the Obama administration.
“It’s a mess,” he said. “And honestly, it’s not really Erdogan’s fault.”
The S-400 system includes advanced radar that is designed to detect stealth targets as well as other aircraft, and it can also be used against some types of missiles.
The Turkish Defense Ministry said the first parts of the system arrived at the Murted airfield in Ankara on Friday. Turkish news media reported that a team of Russian specialists had also arrived to assemble the system.The Turkish Defense Ministry said the first parts of the system arrived at the Murted airfield in Ankara on Friday. Turkish news media reported that a team of Russian specialists had also arrived to assemble the system.
Turkey would be liable for sanctions under the 2017 Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act, which mandates United States sanctions against anyone making a significant deal with the Russian defense industry. American officials have said that Turkey would incur sanctions as soon as it received the weapon system on its soil.Turkey would be liable for sanctions under the 2017 Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act, which mandates United States sanctions against anyone making a significant deal with the Russian defense industry. American officials have said that Turkey would incur sanctions as soon as it received the weapon system on its soil.
The law calls on President Trump to select five sanctions from a list of 12 to impose against Turkey. There is no waiver or suspension that could apply to Turkey, but there is no time schedule laid down for enforcement. The law calls on Mr. Trump to select five sanctions from a list of 12 to impose against Turkey. There is no waiver or suspension that could apply to Turkey, but there is no time schedule laid down for enforcement.