Nato member country Turkey has completed the purchase of Russia's S-400 surface-to-air missile defence system despite scepticism that it would do so. It remains to be seen if the transaction, announced by Turkish Defence Minister Nurettin Canikli on November 11, will infringe sanctions applied to Russia by the US.
The announcement that the controversial acquisition had gone through was made two days after a clear the air meeting in Washington, DC between Turkish PM Binali Yildirim and US Vice President Mike Pence failed to immediately produce any real progress in resolving a range of issues that have led to a diplomatic falling out between the Americans and Turks. It is not known if the S-400 purchase was discussed. There was some speculation that the US would make a last-minute bid to persuade Ankara to buy and American missile defence system rather than the Russian one.
In late October, General Petr Pavel, chairman of the Nato Military Committee, warned Turkey that it could face “necessary consequences” if it went ahead and bought the Russian anti-aircraft technology. “The principal of sovereignty obviously exists in the acquisition of defence equipment, but the same way that nations are sovereign in making their decision, they are also sovereign in facing the consequences of that decision,” he reportedly said, noting that the S-400 can not be integrated with Nato systems.
News of the acquisition will further concern Western politicians who fear Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, frequently under fire from Germany and Brussels for his approach to human rights during the 17-month-long state of emergency that has lasted in Turkey since the attempted coup in July 2016, is shifting his country’s orientation further and further away from its previously clear aspiration to join the European Union.
Erdogan announced in September that Ankara had signed an agreement to purchase the military hardware from Russia and had already made a down payment. In October, he added that Turkey was also interested in acquiring Russia's S-500 surface-to-air missile system. Turkey claims it has been unable to strike deals to acquire equivalent Western anti-aircraft systems on reasonable terms.
On a related note, Erdogan is expected to meet with Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin on November 13 in the Black Sea resort city of Sochi in Russia for what will be their fifth meeting this year, Hurriyet Daily News reported on November 12.
Turkey’s purchase of the S-400 is among the issues topping the agenda of talks in Sochi, according to the newspaper.
“In addition to the S-400, Turkey also made preliminary agreements with the Eurosam [manufacturer] countries to develop, produce and use the air defence system in order to improve its long-term domestic national capacity," Canikli also said.
Last week, Turkey, France and Italy signed a letter of intent to develop an anti-ballistic missile system.
Under the pact, Turkey’s defence industry and the Franco-Italian consortium will work together to determine needs and priorities for the potential joint production of a SAMP-T system, according to Anadolu.