Turkey said it has dismissed the idea of transferring its S-400 missile defense systems to Ukraine to help Kyiv resist Russian troops. Over the last month, US officials had apparently broached the idea with their Turkish counterparts. But no official request has been made yet.
Turkey, on the other hand, has categorically rejected these proposals. In an op-ed published in the Wall Street Journal, former CIA official Paul Kolbe suggested that “Turkey should send Ukraine the Russian-made S-400 missile defense systems.”
In response to that, Turkish Presidential Communications Director Fahrettin Altun wrote another article, saying such a deal was “quite unrealistic today, this idea presents an opportunity to discuss the problems Turkey has experienced lately with the West.”
“Turkey, which views European Union membership as a strategic objective and takes pride in its NATO membership, expects to be treated by the West as it deserves. It would take confidence-building measures, not so-called informal proposals, to repair the relationship,” he added.
Similarly, Ismail Demir, the head of Turkey’s Presidency of Defense Industries (SSB), indicated on March 23 that Ankara will not abandon S-400 systems, which have been a source of a long-standing disagreement between Washington and Turkey. Turkey, he claims, “is capable of determining its own policy.”
“This is not a subject for us to discuss. We’ve talked about it before. Abandoning (the use of S-400) is not even an option,” Demir told the Russian publication Izvestia. The Trump administration had imposed sanctions on the country for its purchase of S-400s. Demir, as well as three other employees of the Turkish defense industry, were blacklisted by Washington in December 2020.
“I think everyone knows that the S-400 has been a long-standing issue and perhaps this is a moment when we can figure out a new way to solve this problem,” Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman told Turkish broadcaster Haberturk in an interview on March 5.
The attempt, however, is part of a larger effort by the Biden administration to answer Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy’s request for assistance in defending Ukraine’s airspace. Soviet-era air defense systems such as the S-300s, which are used by NATO countries besides Russia and Ukraine, are a part of this initiative.
Moreover, US officials are eager to exploit this opportunity to reintegrate Turkey into Washington’s sphere. Efforts to identify “creative” methods to mend the tense relationship have escalated in recent weeks, despite the fact that no concrete idea has yet gained support.
Calls For Supplying F-35s, Patriots
Altun demanded that Ankara be allowed to rejoin the F-35 joint fighter program, and Patriot missile defense systems are delivered “without conditions”. Turkey, a 70-year NATO member, and an important regional stabilizing force, expects to be treated fairly, Altun said.
He claimed Turkey was unlawfully thrown out of the F-35 program, and the US refused to sell it the Patriot system when it asked for it, pushing it to search for other options.
Ankara had ordered more than 100 F-35 fighter fighters from Lockheed Martin, but the US pushed Turkey out of the program in 2019 when it purchased S-400 missile defense systems from Russia.
Turkey had criticized the move and sought reimbursement for the $1.4 billion (TL 20.7 billion) payment it had made. Ankara claims it was compelled to choose the S-400s because allies refused to offer similar weapons on reasonable terms.
“Turks still remember how our allies withdrew Patriot batteries from Turkey during some of the tensest periods in Turkish-Russian relations. In light of experience, the Turkish people no longer take seriously any informal pledge by the West to supply the Patriot,” Altun said.
The US alleges that Russia might use the S-400 air missile systems to steal confidential information about the F-35 fighters and that they are incompatible with NATO systems. This, despite Turkey’s promise that the S-400 would not be incorporated into NATO systems and would not constitute a threat to the alliance.
Ankara shares maritime borders with both Ukraine and Russia and has strong ties with the two nations. While has condemned the invasion and shown support for Ukraine, Turkey has also spoken out against sanctions on Moscow and offered to mediate.
Experts believe Ankara has deliberately constructed its discourse so as not to alienate Moscow, with whom it has collaboration in areas such as energy, defense, and tourism.
Ankara, on the other hand, has supplied military drones to Ukraine and struck a pact to co-produce more, which has enraged the Kremlin. Turkey condemns Russian policy in Syria and Libya, as well as its annexation of Crimea in 2014.