Conflicting reports circulating in Moscow and Ankara at the weekend indicate some confusion regarding the status of Turkish negotiations for a second batch of Russian-built S-400 TRIUMP long-range air defence systems.
A statement by Rosoboronexport on 23 August suggested the two parties had already signed an agreement and were now merely discussing the financial and commercial details – a statement that was later retracted. Sources in Ankara told MON this is not the case and that the negotiations, which have been going on for some time, are focused on resolving the issue of Turkish involvement in the manufacturing process. Russia does not traditionally offer knowledge or technology transfer to client nations – although that policy is gradually becoming less rigid. There are also hints in the language of the original statement that may indicate discussion of the “financial details” is a little more than a matter of form. Observers of Turkey’s economic and defence industrial scene question whether the requisite funds could actually be allocated to the programme in the current economic climate. Others also raise the spectre of additional detrimental consequences to successfully pursuing a second contract.
The original 2017 contract, covering two battalions of launchers and missiles, was delivered from July last year and caused a rift between Turkey and its NATO allies, especially the United States, which is relentlessly pursuing a programme of pressure and persuasion aimed at Turkey giving up the Russian system. Ankara has so far resisted such blandishments and, as a consequence, has found itself excluded from the F-35 LIGHTNING II programme. Washington continues to threaten additional sanctions. It is worth remembering, however, that part of the motivation for Turkey to look at the Russian system in the fist place was America’s refusal to sell them PATRIOT systems.
The S-400 TRIUMF, which entered Russian service in 2007, is designed to counter airborne targets including cruise and ballistic missiles. It can engage targets at a range of up to 400km and an altitude of 30,000m.