Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan who has kept his silence regarding the S-400 missiles for some time now got back in the game on Saturday.
Upon breaking the silence that brought to mind questions such as, “Could he be making a new situation assessment?” “Could he be seeking a solution to prevent a new crisis with the U.S.?” it became clear that there was not the slightest change in Erdoğan’s stance.
Speaking to Turkish youth yesterday at a program after the fast-breaking meal, Erdoğan said, “Stepping back concerning the S-400s is out of the question,” and added, “After the S-400s, there is also the S-500. There is going to be a joint production for the S-500s.”
This statement made it clear that “postponing” the delivery of the missiles, which came up on the agenda as a smooth transition before “annulling the purchase” has been shelved.
In this case, as indicated by Erdoğan, we can expect the S-400s to arrive to Turkey in parts towards the end of June; procedures such as their installation in deployed areas, their software settings, and the identification of friend/foe system will be completed within the specified calendar.
The technical meetings of these missiles, for which a deal was made two years ago, are conducted by the Undersecretariat of the Turkish Defense Industry. Defense Industry President İsmail Demir, with whom I had the opportunity to evaluate such topics, says procedures are taking place in accordance to the calendar agreed with Russia and that there is no problem in terms of themselves.
The s-400s will be Turkey’s property, not NATO’S
I believe there is benefit in clarifying certain critical points through the questions I asked Demir and the responses he gave.
In an interview with Turkish broadcaster NTV, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, who came to Turkey last week, said – in reference to Turkish officials – “We said different systems could not be integrated into the NATO system.”
At first sight, this statement makes one think whether NATO’s position is along the same lines of the U.S. Whereas, in previous statements, the very same secretary general of the very same NATO had said that every country has the right to purchase these missiles as long as they do not threaten the alliance.
When I reminded Demir of this statement, he responded with the “readiness” of having answered the same question many times. He said: “We repeatedly said that this system could not be integrated into NATO, that we would do the required work duly. If you take the necessary measures, it will certainly not endanger the NATO system. We stated that we are open to all sorts of dialogue to eliminate their concerns.”
These statements indicate:
1- The S-400 missiles are going to be Turkey’s property, not NATO’s,
2- There will be no threat to the alliance once the “required measures” are taken, in other words, once the friend/foe identification program is made compatible with the NATO system,
3- If there are any other concerns, Turkey will continue to remain open to dialogue.
Does the US have an ulterior motive?
It is clear that Ankara’s S-400 approach toward the U.S. is based on similar fundamental principles.
In addition to Washington’s real intention being hidden, I can say that the process is developing with a “no excuse” practice.
The U.S. suggestion to postpone taking delivery of the missiles was reflected in Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu’s question, “What is there to postpone about a matter where the deal is sealed, and part of the payment has been made?” This is followed by the message that if the matter is the NATO system or the matter of a threat on the security of the F-35 fighter jets, we are ready to discuss every aspect of these topics. This is the point of the strategy to give the U.S. “no excuse”.
If you look at it from the opposing side, at the end of the day, we are talking about an approach that will reveal the question, “What is America’s real concern?”
Are they really acting based on the fear that the S-400s would pose a threat to the NATO system or F-35 fighter jets, or are they causing a fit simply because they are categorically against Turkey buying such a system? Allow me to end with İsmail Demir’s words that fit perfectly in this context:
“We are on the technical end of the matter. If anybody has a concern, we are confident we can solve this. We, whether it be the Turkish Armed Forces, or our other technical staff, are ready find any kind of solution at the diplomacy table. If they show us a concrete reason to not make the purchase, we are ready to discuss this.”