How IS Russia’s S-400 Missile System Affecting US-Turkey Ties?
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How IS Russia’s S-400 Missile System Affecting US-Turkey Ties?

On the heels of the failed July 15, 2016, military coup, in which the American hands were obvious to the Turkish intelligence, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan made a huge shift in the Turkish policy based on a view that can be defined as pessimism to the West and moving to embrace the East. Following the attempted putsch, the Turkish leader asserted that to date Turkey was wrong in discriminating the enemies from the friends and it sought to correct this as it knew after the coup how to play politics. The initial move was the de-escalation of tensions with Moscow which followed the Turkish shooting down of a Russian bomber flying over Syria close to the border with Turkey. In a symbolic gesture, Ankara negotiated with Moscow to purchase the long-range anti-missile and aircraft S-400 systems. After two years of the negotiations with the Russians, Erdogan on August 31 announced that Turkey needs the Russia-made air defenses, adding that the deal was finalized and Turkey will “soon” procure them. The Turkish leader’s comments come while the US repeatedly asked Ankara not to buy the Russian systems, warning of consequences if Turkey gets them. The war of words between the US and Erdogan over the expected arms purchase raises some questions: Why does the US-led West oppose the Turkish procurement of the highly-efficient Russian air defenses? And why, on the other side, Ankara insists on getting them despite the heavy pressures by its Western allies? Three main reasons could stand drives to the US opposition the Turkish military purchases from Russia: 1. Russian military and economic improvement and strategic depth expansion Over the past few decades, the most important Western obsession has, certainly, been confronting the Russian sway and power expansion on the world stage. Turkey, as an ally to the West and a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), has been a key party to the anti-Russian axis. But Turkey is now off the Western military orbit, something proved by its bid to get the S-400 systems which will be meaningful to Russia militarily and economically. The experts suggest that selling such an expensive air defense system can help Moscow foil the sanctions, imposed by the West following Ukraine crisis. 2. Damage to NATO credibility Over the past decades, Turkey, being a NATO member, have been provided with military equipment and arms by the Western military organization. However, the Turkish purchase can deal a blow to the alliance credibility and prestige as an inter-state security and defense organization. That is why the West strongly presses to dissuade Erdogan from his decision. 3. Blow to NATO cohesion The Russian move can be heavily damaging to the unity of the NATO. In fact, once the purchase is finalized, the Turkish ejection from the alliance will be seriously raised, something that can serve as a cracking factor inside the military bloc. But Turkey has its own reasons to insist on getting the air defenses from Moscow. Here are three of them: 1. US declines to deliver Patriot defense system, which is inferior to S-400 The Ankara leader’s insistence on finalizing the deal with Russia has roots in the US failure to meet its promises. In the past years, Turkey ordered the US-made Patriot air defense systems but the Congress has blocked their delivery along with F-35 fighter jets. Additionally, Turkey has another reason to go with its determination for the Russian system procurement. During the real-life war, the American system proved a failure. It exhibited this several times as it missed missiles fired to the Israeli regime, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates, three of which are users of the Patriot batteries. But the Russian system has displayed an apparent quality superiority over the American one over and over. 2. Turkey wants less reliance on the West Yet another reason is tied to the national independence. Erdogan struggles to reduce the security and military dependence on the West as he takes long steps towards building a regional power. The president took lessons from the past. The Western-sponsored coup and recently the Trump administration sanctions against Ankara showed the true color of the West to Erdogan, telling him how unreliable the West is. This gives him every reason to cut reliance on the West when it comes to security and military matters. 3. S-400 purchase a case of national prestige Regardless of the security and military matters that make the S-400 systems must-have, the issue now develops links to the Turkish national prestige, with Ankara showing no signs of retreat. Erdogan seeks to get the systems to display his strong will to counter Trump pressures. 

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