Turkey will receive its first batch of Russian S-400 Triumf air defense systems in July 2019 and will reject the US proposal for the procurement of the Patriot surface-to-air missile (SAM) system.
“The delivery of the S-400s will begin in July 2019. As of October, the system will be active. There are two systems, the second system’s calendar is set back, there is no problem,” the undersecretary of the Undersecretariat for Defense Industries (SSM), İsmail Demir, said in a televised interview.
In the same interview he said that Turkey cannot accept the criteria of the US proposal, since it demands for it to terminate the S-400 deal.
“We cannot accept the content and details of the offer as it is,” he said, as Turkey needs to acquire more than air defense systems.
On December 18th, the US State Department approved a possible sale of the Patriot air and missile defense system to Turkey for an estimated total of $3.5 billion.
On January 3rd, a US delegation formally made an offer to Turkey for the sale of Patriot systems.
Over the six weeks leading to February 22nd, two separate US delegations held talks with Turkish counterparts on the offer. One of them expressed concerns over the purchase of the Russian S-400 system and placing it on NATO soil. Washington stressed that it would supply the Patriot system only in the case that the S-400 is not purchased.
The U.S. put an informal deadline of Feb. 15 for Ankara to respond to its offer on the Patriot systems. According to Reuters, citing anonymous officials, the offer for the Patriot systems expires at the end of March.
The US offer did not commit to two major demands of Ankara: Providing credit and joint production.
Furthermore, Hurriyet reported on an increased pressure from Washington recently:
“In parallel to the Patriot negotiations, Washington increases pressure on Ankara for the cancellation of its deal with Russia on the procurement of the S-400 air missile defense systems on the grounds that the system risks NATO security both on political and technical grounds.
In the past few weeks, Washington has been carrying on with a silent diplomacy for its accelerated pressure on Ankara for the cancellation of the S-400 deal. In the latest move, last week, U.S. Vice President Mike Pence conveyed the U.S.’s concerns to Ankara on behalf of President Donald Trump and asked Turkey to abort its S-400 purchase.”
Following the mentioned phone conversation, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan emphasized on the fact that the S-400 deal between Ankara and Moscow is final and will not change.
“We made the S-400 deal with Russia, so it is out of the question for us to turn back. That’s done,” Erdoğan said.
Turkey officially signed a $2.5 billion agreement with Russia for the S-400s long-range anti-aircraft missile system.
The US has warned that the Russian S-400 may also put Turkey’s participation in the F-35 program in jeopardy.
“We are very concerned that the Turkish purchase of the S-400 missiles will endanger Turkish participation in the F-35 program and will likely result through our legislation in some sort of sanctions coming through the legislations called CAATSA [the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act],” a senior U.S. official told the Hürriyet Daily News on condition of anonymity. “So the U.S. government is of the view that we will not proceed with the patriot sale if Turkey proceeds with the S-400 purchase.”
Hurriyet also cited an anonymous Turkish official according to whom “Washington is concerned with the security risk that the S-400 system radars can pose on NATO defense capabilities, such as F-34 fighter jets. Americans believe that the S-400 radar can spy on Turkish territory exposing sensitive details of the F-35 performance, such as capturing minor patterns of F-35 flights despite its high stealth capability.”
The US is also concerned about the possibility of the Russian system’s radar monitoring on operational activities at İncirlik airbase.
Secondly, the US considers the S-400 procurement by Turkey as a security problem of NATO. Washington is worried on Turkey’s “deviation in its pursuit of security.”
Turkey has repeatedly invited NATO experts to assist in the installation of the S-400 to ensure that there would be no such threats.
Ismail Demir also said that the US will delivery two F-35 fighter jets to Turkey in March. However, on February 15th, U.S. President Donald Trump signed a spending bill that includes blocking transfers of F-35s to Turkey until November 1st, 2019 to give a plenty of time to see if the Russian S-400 air defense system will be delivered to Turkey.
Since the S-400 procurement seems final, it is unclear what will happen with Turkey’s participation in the F-35 project.