Turkey and Russia to go ahead with arms deal

Russian S-400 Triumph medium-range and long-range surface-to-air missile systems ride through Red Square during the Victory Day military parade in Moscow on May 9. (AFP)
Updated 14 September 2017

Turkey and Russia to go ahead with arms deal

ANKARA: Russia said it is preparing to ship its S-400 anti-ballistic missile system to Turkey despite opposition from the latter’s key NATO allies.
As Turkey boasts the second-largest army in the alliance after the US, the purchase of Russian-made, high-tech defense equipment has sparked intense debate about its interoperability with NATO radars.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Sunday said his country had already paid a deposit to Russia for the S-400s.
“If we’re having issues in acquiring certain defense instruments and our attempts are met with obstacles, we’ll take care of ourselves,” he said, alluding to difficulties Turkey has faced in purchasing armed drones from allied countries.
Technical experts say it is necessary to create an interface program to ensure the compatibility and interoperability of the S-400 system with NATO’s missile defense.
“But there’s a need for political consensus on this between the parties, which isn’t likely at all,” Prof. Mustafa Kibaroglu, director of the Center for International Security Studies and Strategic Research at MEF University in Istanbul, told Arab News.
“Acquiring air defense systems is likely to increase Turkey’s deterrent capability, which in turn might enhance its self-confidence and help bring more stability to its relations with other countries in the region.”
Underlining that Turkey, despite being a NATO member, is not obligated to buy military equipment from a particular group of countries, Kibaroglu said Russia is a legitimate supplier for air defense systems.
“In an age of worsening relations between the West and Russia, the recent bid has caused grave concerns” among NATO members, he added.
The S-400 deal alone is unlikely to make Turkey and Russia strategic partners overnight, and does not suggest a major deviation from Ankara’s foreign and security policies, Kibaroglu said.
“Existing differences, and ad hoc cooperation between Turkey and Russia in handling terrorism threats emanating from Iraq and Syria, won’t be dramatically affected by the deal, at least in the foreseeable future,” he added.
Can Kasapoglu, a defense analyst at the Istanbul-based Center for Economics and Foreign Policy Studies, said interoperability between the S-400 and NATO’s integrated ballistic missile defense architecture is not possible.
“This doesn’t arise merely from technical difficulties, but from greater political-military concerns,” he told Arab News.
“Anyone who monitored NATO’s Wales and Warsaw summits could have detected the extremely negative mood regarding Russia, especially after Moscow’s annexation of Crimea.”
Kasapoglu said while Turkey does not plan to drift away from NATO’s systems, diversification of its military cooperation portfolio and procurement makes it resilient in the face of diplomatic fluctuations. But he highlighted two drawbacks regarding the S-400 deal.
“First, Turkey’s defense budget might be overstretched by running two defensive strategic weapons agendas, one for the Russian SAM and the other for a NATO-friendly system with EUROSAM,” Kasapoglu said.
“Second, any further strains in the strategic balance between NATO and Russia would put Turkey’s S-400 deal under the spotlight. Furthermore, an undeclared war has been going on in the eastern part of Ukraine, and there’s no way Turkey’s Foreign Ministry could recognize the illegal annexation of Crimea.”
Elli Kytomaki, an arms control expert and analyst at SaferGlobe, a Finnish think-tank, told Arab News that the purchase of the S-400 “would make Turkey the first NATO member to use the system within the alliance.”
He said: “The US has already raised concerns over the purchase, but it doesn’t seem to be a deal-breaker or a cause for sanctions by NATO or Turkey’s other Western allies, such as the EU.”
Kytomaki added that Turkey wants to frame a more independent foreign policy and gain more knowhow in missile technology.
“The Russian system is also said to be cheaper than the alternatives that were on the table when the purchase was first being considered,” she said.
In light of tensions in Turkey’s security partnership with the US, experts said the S-400 deal could spark further disagreement between Ankara and Washington.
“But even if Turkey were to reconsider its decision” to procure the S-400, “I don’t think it would make the Pentagon withdraw its support” for the Syrian-Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD), Kasapoglu said.
“Nevertheless, many of Turkey’s competitors would use the S-400 issue to claim that Ankara is shifting from its traditional alliance to a more pro-Russia position. This propaganda could affect the US stance vis-a-vis Turkey when discussing the PYD issue.”


Ankara accuses Tehran of betrayal: Is the alliance of convenience collapsing? 

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Russian President Vladimir Putin hold talks on Syrian crisis at the Black Sea resort of Sochi, Russia, on Tuesday. (AFP)
Updated 23 October 2019

Ankara accuses Tehran of betrayal: Is the alliance of convenience collapsing? 

  • Erdogan says Iran betraying the consensus between the two countries

ANKARA: Recent developments on the ground in Syria may be proof of the demise of the already fragile partnership between Turkey and Iran, the two guarantor states of the Astana process alongside with Russia. On Monday, Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi announced that Iran rejected any move from Turkey to establish military posts inside Syria, and emphasized that the integrity of Tehran’s key regional ally should be respected.
Prior to departing for Sochi, to meet with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said: “I condemn Iran’s stance on Operation Peace Spring. Unfortunately, there are splintering voices rising from Iran. This situation disturbs my colleagues and myself.”
Erdogan also accused Iran of betraying the consensus between the two countries, after Tehran condemned Turkey’s ongoing operation in northern Syria against Syrian Kurdish forces and demanded “an immediate stop to the attacks and the exit of the Turkish military from Syrian territory.”
The statements are considered by experts another sign that the alliance of convenience between the two regional competitors is ending, with their regional interests beginning to conflict.
Iran has always been a close ally of Syrian President Bashar Assad, and has been keen to engage Syrian Kurds, Assad’s government and Turkey in dialogue following Ankara’s offensive into northern Syria, within the framework of the Adana Agreement as a legal framework to establish security along the border.
Tehran also held surprise military drills near the Turkish border on the same day Turkey launched its operation into northern Syria.
Dr. Michael Tanchum, senior fellow at the Austrian Institute for European and Security Studies, said: “With the removal of US troops in northern Syria, which both Ankara and Tehran opposed for different reasons, Turkey and Iran’s conflicting strategic interests are now naturally coming to the forefront.”
Moreover, according to Tanchum, Iran has already fought elements of the paramilitary forces now that are now partnering with Turkey.
“Tehran is distressed that such elements are being empowered. While Iran needs Turkish cooperation in the face crippling US sanctions, Iran needs Russia’s cooperation much more,” he told Arab News.

HIGHLIGHTS

• Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi says Iran rejected any move from Turkey to establish military posts inside Syria, and emphasized that the integrity of Tehran’s key regional ally should be respected.

• Iran has already fought the elements of the paramilitary forces that are now partnering with Turkey.

However, Tanchum thinks that the idea Tehran would triangulate between Ankara and Moscow as a way of preserving its own position in Syria seems quite unlikely.
“If Iran has to choose between Turkey and Russia in Syria, it will choose Russia. In this sense, the previous dynamics of the Astana process are no longer in place,” he said.
However, Dr. Bilgehan Alagoz, lecturer at Istanbul Marmara University’s Institute for Middle East Studies, said that rumors about the death of the Iranian-Turkish alliance in Syria may be a bit exaggerated, at least for now.
For Alagoz, Iran is hesitant about cooperation between Turkey and the US, which has the possibility of creating a confrontation against Iran’s interests in Syria.
“On the other hand, Iran is uncomfortable with the US military presence in Syria. Therefore, Iran is facing a dilemma,” she told Arab News.
According to Alagoz, at this point Iran needs to pursue diplomacy with both Turkey and Russia.
“Thus, I do not think that the Iranian statements against Turkey will continue for a long time,” she added.
With the civil war now in its eighth year in Syria, Assad’s forces have gradually gained control of strategic cities in northwestern Idlib province, like Khan Sheikhoun, with Russian and Iranian support. The Syrian regime also attacked Turkish military observation posts in the region over the summer.
In the meantime, in a surprise decision on Monday evening, Turkey appointed former Halkbank executive Hakan Atilla, who was sentenced to prison in the US over Iranian sanctions breaches, as the new CEO of the Istanbul Stock Exchange.