Turkey: NATO Member in Talks on Major Arms Deal with Russia

Turkey: NATO Member in Talks on Major Arms Deal with Russia

Turkey, a NATO member, says it is in talks with Russia regarding the purchase of advanced S-400 long-range air defense missile systems. The recent NATO summit held this summer in Warsaw called for freezing military contacts of its members with Russia. «We welcome Allied efforts to address, as appropriate, existing dependencies on Russian-sourced legacy military equipment», the communique said. But Turkey gives priority to national interests in defiance of the bloc’s decisions. Ankara has its reasons for doing so.

Russia and Turkey are to resume military cooperation. According to Defense News, an industry source said that Russia and Turkey can seek procurement deals in electronic systems, ammunitions and missile technology.

General Hulusi Akar, the head of the Turkish armed forces’ General Staff, visited Russia on November 1 for talks on military cooperation and regional issues. The parties plan to hold a meeting of an intergovernmental commission before the end of 2016. Aleksander Fomin, head of the Russian Federal Service for Military-Technical Cooperation, told Interfax news agency on November 18 that an intergovernmental commission will «hold a meeting soon» to discuss the cooperation, including the possible sale of S-400.

Presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin said last month that Moscow and Ankara had agreed to work out the details of possible cooperation on implementing the Turkish national missile defense system project.

At present, Turkey has to rely on other NATO members for air defense protection.

Last August, the US decision withdrew Patriot air defense systems deployed in the country since in 2013 to protect it from a possible cross-border attack from Syria. The move upset the Turkish government. It was one of many reasons to make Turkey’s President, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, say in the November interview for 60 Minutes (CBS), that he was disillusioned with the US policies.

Turkey’s officials have complained about NATO’s unwillingness to cooperate with Turkey. In August, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu criticized the North Atlantic Alliance, saying it was not fully cooperating with Ankara. According to him, NATO was evasive on such issues as the exchange of technology and joint investments.

In an interview with the Anadolu news agency on August 10, he said that Turkey and Russia would look to establish a joint military, intelligence, and diplomatic mechanism, while adding that relations with NATO were not as satisfactory as he would have wished. It all makes Turkey look for other partners.

Actually, Russia has been selling weapons to NATO members for years. In 1993-1994, Turkey purchased 19 Mi-17 helicopters and 70 armored personnel carriers from this country.

It has helped repair and upgrade some Soviet-era weapons (especially aircraft) in the inventories of former Warsaw Pact countries, which have joined NATO. For instance, it was reported in September that four Hungarian Mil Mi-17 military helicopters were transported to Russia for repair and modernization. Russia is an option for the Hungary’s plans to buy new military helicopters.

Bulgaria's defense ministry has recently signed a deal to acquire 10 MiG-29 engines from Russia. The Defense Ministry argues that the new contract, dated November 9, will allow to make five MiG jets operational next year. Prime Minister Boiko Borisov said Bulgaria is holding talks with Russia to overhaul the aging MiG-29 fleet at Bulgaria's state-owned military plant Avionams.

Greece signed an intergovernmental agreement in 1993 to purchase Russian anti-missile batteries and infantry fighting vehicles. The defense cooperation between the two countries has continued against all the odds.

According to Greek Defense Minister Panos Kammenos, his country seeks a license to manufacture Kalashnikov assault rifles in Patra as soon as the EU lifts ends its trade embargo against Russia. Greece is in talks with Moscow for the purchase and maintenance of the Russian-made S-300 air defense systems, which it has possessed since the late 1990s.

EU states without NATO membership are also involved in defense cooperation with Russia. In February, Russia and Cyprus, an EU member, signed a deal with Russia allowing its navy ships to make regular port calls on the divided Mediterranean island. Actually, there were two military pacts – one on «defence cooperation», one on «naval cooperation».

The document was signed amid the worst since the Cold War times deterioration of relations between Russia and the West over Ukraine. The possibility of Russian aircraft using a Cypriot air base near the town of Paphos for humanitarian relief missions was also on the agenda. In open defiance to the West’s anti-Russian stance, President Nicos Anastasiades said Cyprus and Russia would continue to cooperate without paying any heed to international reaction to the agreements.

Russia's presence in the Cypriot economy has been a very important supporting factor with its footprint everywhere from tourism to real estate. Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras has stated that «Greece and Cyprus can become a bridge of peace and cooperation between the EU and Russia».

The military cooperation of NATO and EU members with Russia serves as a testimony to the fact that there is no such thing as «the unity of the West». The countries give priority to national interests and cooperate with Moscow.

Hardly anyone but Russia could offer Turkey a better deal and hardly anyone possesses a better long-range air defense system than the S-400. If the deal goes through, the Turkish air space will be protected by the system widely believed to be the best in the world. With Russia’s help it can start the production on its own soil to greatly enhance its industrial base.

Turkey will acquire the capability to defend itself as a sovereign country and not depend on the whims of other nations, even if they are NATO allies. Russia and Turkey have a long history of mutually beneficial cooperation in many areas. The milestone S-400 deal will give a great boost to the process that serves the mutual interests of both great nations.