Turkey, the country with the longest land border with Syria which is considered to be a "failed state," a neighbor to the newly recovering Iraq, as well as having continental shelf problems with economically bankrupt Greece, still does not have an air defense system. This is not a tolerable shortcoming for Turkey, especially in a region prone to geopolitical problems.
Despite many attempts to purchase the Patriot air defense system from the U.S., Turkey has not been able to achieve this due to conflicts such as the "transfer of technology" issue. However, the Italian-French Eurosam for the SAMP/T Aster 30 Eurosam was willing to transfer critical design information to Turkish defense contractors. In January last year, Turkey awarded Eurosam, ASELSAN and Roketsan a contract for the definition study for the future Turkish Long-Range Air and Missile Defense System.
So, Turkey is not categorically against making an air defense system deal with Western allies.
However, the U.S.' unwillingness to share their technology drove Turkey toward Russia to purchase the Russian-made S-400 defense system. The U.S. stood by idly for some time and made occasional threats such as "there will be consequences," but never actually offered any real alternatives to Turkey. Then, things got serious and U.S. authorities started ringing the alarm bells.
In late December last year, the U.S. State Department authorized a proposed Foreign Military Sale to Turkey for the Patriot Missile system and related support and equipment worth $3.5 billion. If this decision was taken two years ago, preferably after the failed coup attempt as a gesture of goodwill, things might have been different.
Also not surprisingly, the U.S. offer came with a precondition that Turkey would have to back away from the S-400s deal with Russia. U.S. officials also said the decision to go ahead with the S-400 deal would jeopardize Turkey's purchase of the Lockheed Martin Corp F-35 fighter jets and possibly result in the United States imposing sanctions.
Since then President Erdoğan has repeatedly said Ankara will go ahead with the S-400 purchase. He also expressed that Turkey is open to purchasing the Patriot systems from the United States as long as the deal serves Turkey's interests, but added there were issues on delivery and production that were still being discussed with Washington.
Although the formal U.S. offer for Turkey's purchase of the Patriot systems expires at the end of March, U.S. officials had asked Turkey to give an informal answer on the decision of purchasing the S-400 by Feb. 15. No positive development has occurred up to this point and Erdoğan stated once again on Wednesday that the S-400 deal is done and there is no going back.
Turkey does not have its own air defense system, despite being a powerful country that boasts an advanced defense industry. As far as I can see, what U.S. officials are offering is considered to be "too little, too late" by Ankara.
This decision certainly seems as though it will go down in history as a turning point, not only in Turkey-U.S. relations, but also for the future of NATO.
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