“So, you will constantly produce, and you want us to buy. You want to be the manufacturer, while we are the market. No. Turkey is no longer a market. We are going to form a partnership,” said Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar.
You must have understood the context: The S-400 missiles.
We were invited last night as representatives of the press and TV for an iftar (fast-breaking) program hosted at the National Defense Ministry by Defense Minister Hulusi Akar.
Commissioned officers kindly welcomed guests with a smile, and the iftar meal was prepared diligently, far from waste, yet was pleasurable and delightful for the guests.
I should also add that this is the first time I attended such a reception in Ankara, where I have been serving for 14 years.
Minister Akar made jokes and laughed at the jokes made, creating a warm and comforting atmosphere.
Though the atmosphere was serene as such, this was not the case with respect to the topics to be discussed – one in particular.
The majority of the questions asked were concerning the Russian S-400 air-to-surface missiles Turkey has purchased.
After discussing the new military system at length, and answering other questions, Akar left his statements on the S-400s for last – perhaps due to the sensitivity of the topic.
“We are progressing with care and calm. Otherwise it could become very problematic.”
This statement may be interpreted as “We are going to resist to the end, and if we can get what we want, we will, if not, we will give up.” But that is not the case.
When we look at his statements as a whole, it would be more accurate to say the tactic pursued is to “See it through without giving them any excuse,” rather than “Giving up at the last moment.”
We say its a ‘done deal,’ while they say…
Akar related what he said to the Americans.
For example, he said:
“Is there an article anywhere in the F-35 partnership protocol that says, ‘If one of the partners buys S-400s, they will be removed from [the F-35] partnership’? Turkey is the sole country to pay its partnerships without ever delaying.”
“We are saying that the ‘S-400 purchase is a done deal,’ while they say, ‘No deal is a done deal.’”
The S-400 is a system developed not for attack but defense. Turkey is buying this system with the intention to protect its own airspace, territory, cities against missiles and physical attacks. As it is a defense system and not an attack system, there is no international sanction on it either.
The same rule applies for the NATO system.
Even though NATO may have taken a step back in the recent period due to Washington’s stance, its top-level officials had stated on more than one occasion that Turkey has the right to buy this system.
What does the US really want?
All this pushes us to ask a single question:
“Then, what does the U.S. really want?”
I asked the exact same question to Defense Minister Akar.
He said, “They do not want a NATO member to turn toward a system that belongs to a country outside the alliance.”
Of course, if we were to accept this as a valid excuse, we are left with the question, “Where does the purchase of other sub-versions of the same system by other NATO-member countries in the past fit?”
The core of it is that the U.S. wants Turkey’s “military dependence relation” to continue. They want Turkey to remain economically “as a market” and strategically dependent and obligated toward it.
These are the basic reasons why they are turning the S-400 into a necessary topic of threat and blackmail.
The process continues; military personnel have been sent to Russia for training
On a different note, as Minister Akar also pointed out, the S-400 process with Russia continues to run according to schedule.
Saying, “It is true that we have sent personnel to Russia for training,” Akar confirmed that the physical stages are also progressing.
I asked him, “Is Turkey going to have a good command of the S-400 technology by the end of these processes?”
“Of course,” he said.
Akar was asked how Turkey may respond to the U.S.’s sanction threats, whether shutting down the Kürecik and İncirlik air bases are on the agenda.
He left the answer open-ended and sufficed by saying, “When we say some things this early, they lose their magic. We will take our own measures as the results emerge.”
We are heading towards an extremely critical photo finish regarding the S-400s.
Preferences to be made by Ankara in the next few months may lead us to new inclinations and situations such as “Turkey taking its place among a new world,” as Akar mentioned between the lines in one of his statements.
These next few months are extremely important.