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article imageOp-Ed: NATO tries to persuade Turkey to abandon Russian missile purchase

By Ken Hanly     May 6, 2019 in Politics
NATO chief Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg arrived in Ankara Turkey on Monday. He will visit for two days and is expected to stress NATO concerns with Turkey's planned purchase of Russian S-400 missiles.
Stoltenberg to urge Turkey not to buy Russian missiles
Stoltenberg will push Turkey to abandon purchase of the Russian missiles and negotiate an alternative US-made air-defense system. He told Turkey's state-run Anadolous news agency that "the interoperability of our armed forces is fundamental to NATO for the conduct of our operations and missions" Stoltenberg said: “I welcome and encourage the discussions about Turkey’s possible acquisition of a U.S. Patriot missile system.”
Stoltenberg said that he would meet both President Recep Erdogan and Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu.
Turkey's planned Russian purchase creates tension with the US
Erdogan's decision to buy the S-400 missiles from Russia is a source of tension with the US. The US has threatened to sanction Turkey if it follows through with the deal, and even expel it from its F-35 fifth generation fighter jet program.
The US claims that the missiles if deployed in Turkey could collect critical information on the stealth abilities of the F-35 that Turkish companies have helped develop. The US has offered Turkey its own Patriot system but negotiations on the issue have been off and on. The US worries too that the deployment of the Russian missiles would mark a further advance of Russia's attempt to take on a larger role in the Middle East.
For his part, Erdogan has argued that the purchase is a matter of national security and sovereignty. Erdogan has drawn closer to Russia as ties with the US have grown strained. US and NATO threats may move Turkey even closer to Russia although he appears to want to keep good relations with NATO, the US and Russia. Erdogan said: “Turkey’s development of relations with different countries and regions is complementary, not incompatible. The steps that we’re taken to bolster our national security within the framework of the NATO alliance should be evaluated on their own.”
US threats appear to have little effect on Turkey's plans
The threat of removing Turkey from a costly fighter jet program or imposing sanctions appear to have done little to persuade Ankara to abandon the S-400s. Turkey is set to take delivery of the Russian equipment by July and has proposed the U.S. and the NATO study how to avoid the risk of compromising sensitive information on the F-35s. It’s also argued that it can still buy Patriot missiles from the U.S. if Washington can give guarantees on their delivery as well as joint production.
Stoltenberg argues that NATO has helped with Turkey's air defenses since 2013, but Turkey says the measures NATO has taken are not sufficient to protect its air space.
Turkey claims the S-400s and F-35s would not affect each other and that it will not abandon the former.
Turkish vice-president Fuat Oktay said: "Speaking in an interview with broadcaster Kanal 7, Oktay said United States concerns on the issue were not reasonable and added that Turkey would not back down.Oktay's comments come after Acting US Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan warned Friday that the Pentagon will halt manufacturing support for the F-35 in Turkey if Ankara buys a Russian missile defence system."If Turkey decides that the S-400 is a decision they want to go forward with, then we have to move work out of Turkey," he said."
The F-35 program is filled with flaws. Turkey might not lose anything by being forced out of it. An article from a few years back just lists some of the problems of the very costly fighter: "The F-35, which comes with an estimated $1.5 trillion pricetag over the life of the program, has faced numerous hurdles and delays. Most recently, there have been concerns over its computer systems' vulnerability, and Chinese hackers have possibly stolen classified data related to the project."
Trump considering visit to Turkey just as Russian S-400 missiles are to arrive
The severity of any sanctions that Turkey will suffer may be thought to depend on President Trump with whom Erdogan has enjoyed relatively good relations. However, Trump's actions are often determined not by his own preference but by hawks within his own administration. Trump's relationships with Putin are quite cordial but relations between Russia and the US are becoming as they were back in Cold War times. Turkey has been engaged in back-door diplomacy on the issue with the US.
Marc Pierini, a former EU ambassador to Turkey, tweeted: “Despite growing divergences between Turkey and its Western allies, neither side can afford for political, economic, and security relations to deteriorate beyond a certain point.”
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of DigitalJournal.com
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