Jul 08 2019

S-400 set to undermine Erdoğan’s quest to become world leader - analyses

The United States and European Union see their security as under threat and are fed up with the double-dealing of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who is fighting to become globally relevant and must be closely watched, according to analyses in two Middle East news outlets. 

The first Russian S-400 missile defence system is set to arrive in Turkey early this week, potentially spurring sanctions from Washington, which has repeatedly told Ankara the system poses a threat to NATO and U.S. systems, particularly the U.S. F-35 stealth fighter jet. 

Turkish Presidency Spokesperson İbrahim Kalın said last week that the S-400 is a defence system, not an attack system, and poses no threat, and that Turkey would go ahead with its deployment. 

Kalın also said Turkey would soon host a summit with Russia and Iran to discuss the Syrian war, then join another Syria summit with Russia, Germany and France. This followed Erdoğan’s offer to mediate the brewing conflict between the United States and Iran, as he is close to both sides. 

“Erdoğan is convinced that he has what it takes to transform himself into a world leader,” Israeli political commentator Micah Halpern wrote for the Jerusalem Post. “He wants to sew his oats mediating not one world conflict, but two – simultaneously.”

He may be thwarted in that effort, as U.S. officials have tired of his duplicitousness and vowed to levy sanctions for the S-400. 

“Behind this decision, there is one brief message: The era of Turkish extortion is over and those who are not with us are against us, even if they happen to be NATO members. Playing with Uncle Sam can be harmful to your health,” Syrian analyst Baha al-Awam wrote for Arab Weekly. 

Al-Awam said Turkey could no longer play the United States and Russia against each other, but had to choose between the two. Erdoğan had gone too far in his blackmailing of the West, for electoral purposes, for foreign policy purposes, and now threatening NATO security with the S-400 deal, he added. 

“Both the Europeans and the Americans are fed up with him,” said al-Awam. “Erdoğan is not only afraid of economic sanctions but also fears American support -- and European backing as well -- of the Turkish opposition against his rule and his party.”

In buying arms from Moscow, according to Halpern, Ankara has signaled to Washington that it has lost a valued customer and that secret information about the F-35 will now be put in Russian hands. 

“The new technology of the S-400 can easily be tweaked to be more effective against U.S. technology and that tweak can impact U.S. military effectiveness across the globe,” wrote Halpern. 

“Erdoğan is a thug and a tyrant, but he is no fool,” he added. “The president of Turkey must be watched carefully – all eyes upon him. Erdoğan is a fighter and this is just the beginning of his quest.”