Having warned Turkey over the acquisition and implementation of the Russian-made anti-aircraft S-400 missile system (NATO codename SA-21 Growler), the chairman of NATO’s Military Committee, Czech General Petr Pavel, later changed his tone and said that the alliance reconciled itself with the Russo-Turkish deal.
What’s behind NATO’s change of heart?
“Turkey is an extremely important partner for NATO, since it allows [the alliance] to strike at Russia from the south,” military analyst Martin Koller told Sputnik Czech Republic. “This is an indisputable fact, otherwise this Muslim country simply would not have been in NATO. After all, it is alien to the alliance both by its geographical position and by its national composition.”
Koller recalled that historically NATO was designed to ensure the security of the Atlantic region and northwestern part of Europe from the Warsaw Pact bloc, which ceased to exist 25 years ago. “In this context Turkey’s membership in NATO looks pretty funny,” the military analyst remarked.
On October 25, General Pavel warned of “consequences” for Turkey should Ankara buy the Russian-made weapons. He highlighted that Turkey’s intention to buy the S-400 air defense system would prevent Ankara from being integrated into the NATO air defense system and also risk other technical restrictions.
“The principal of sovereignty obviously exists in acquisition of defense equipment, but in the same way that nations are sovereign in making their decision, they are also sovereign in facing the consequences of that decision,” General Pavel said, as cited by Defense News.
However, in less than a month the chairman of NATO’s Military Committee has changed his mind and told U.S. News & World Report that the alliance has to “see the situation in a very pragmatic way.”
“What’s the alternative? Are we going to alienate Turkey because of some issues, when at the same time we know Turkey is willing to discuss these issues? It would be very unwise,” the general underscored.
According to Koller, once purchased by the Turks the S-400 complex will be most likely accessed by experts from NATO who are seeking to copy the system. He referred to the Czech Republic’s Tamara radar systems, which were purchased by foreign customers who aimed to copy their design. However, that attempt failed, the military analyst noted.
On the other hand, since the Russians decided to sell this system to a NATO country, it can be assumed that it has already developed more advanced weapons, the Czech analyst suggested.
Russia’s S-400 Triumf More Effective Than US Counterpart
Ankara’s decision to buy the S-400 instead of the US-made Patriot surface-to-air missile (SAM) system is quite logical, according to Koller.
“According to experts, the S-400 is a more effective missile defense system than the Patriot,” the analyst emphasized. “Obviously, the Americans do not want to provide Turkey with a modernized version of the SAM.”
He drew attention to the fact that even 20-25 years ago Russia’s long range surface-to-air missile S-300 systems (NATO reporting name SA-10 Grumble) were regarded as more effective that the Patriot. Koller noted that the development of the Russian systems was continued despite the fact that in the 1990s some irresponsible Russian generals and politicians allowed the Russian S-300 and S-350 systems to be sold to NATO countries, which played into the hands of the American intelligence agencies.
Meanwhile, Turkey’s procurement of weapons from Russia comes in direct violation of anti-Russian sanctions.
According to Koller, Ankara has become a regional power that can put its own interests above the US and EU’s strategies and aspirations.
“Turkey is a state once ruled with the firm hand of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, and now [it is being ruled] with the firm hand of President [Recep Tayyip] Erdogan, who does not agree to be someone’s pawn and serve other nations’ interests,” the Czech military analyst concluded.
Earlier this month, while commenting on Ankara’s decision to purchase the S-400, Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim explained that Ankara wanted to get its air defense systems from NATO member countries, but that it “could not get the necessary support from the US.”
“The fact that we have entered defense cooperation with Russia does not downplay the importance of our obligations as a NATO member. We do not intend to abandon NATO. We only need such cooperation with Russia in order to eliminate the looming threats to Turkey,” Yildirim said, as quoted by The Hurriyet newspaper.
The Turkish prime minister underscored that Ankara was forced to make this choice due to the fact that the Turkish Air Force failed to destroy 71 missiles fired on Turkey from the territory of Syria, which resulted in at least 29 people being killed.
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