Erdoğan could be ‘coup-proofing’ with S-400 purchase - analysis

Acquiring the S-400 may be part of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s hedge against another coup following the failed putsch of July 2016 overthrow him, wrote Thomas Karako, director of the Missile Defense Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS).

While Turkey’s decision to acquire the Russian S-400 missile system represents a significant win for Moscow, the United States should not scrap the prospects of both F-35 and Patriot air defences and a future integration with NATO air defences, Karako said.

 Turkey began taking delivery of an advanced Russian missile defence system on Friday, in a move expected to trigger sanctions from Washington while driving a wedge into the Western military alliance. Washington maintains that the Russian systems are both incompatible with NATO defence systems and pose a security threat.

“Few recent weapon sales have been as geopolitically charged as this one,’’ Karako wrote, adding that Ankara’s $2.5 billion agreement with Moscow for the procurement of four S-400 batteries, follows over decade-long pursuit by Turkey.

“The arrival of the S-400 follows significant political turmoil in Turkey, most notably the shoot down of a Russian jet in 2015, the failed coup attempt of July 15, 2016—exactly three years ago today—and a new strategic partnership between Erdogan and President Vladimir Putin,’’ it said.

The article said analysts have been scratching their heads as to the U.S. failure to dissuade Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who has been unfazed by threats of U.S. sanctions and expulsion from the F-35 fighter jet programme over the system.

The Turkish president may want the Russian system for the exact reason the United States does not want Turkey to have it, because it is built to shoot down the American-made aircraft currently operated by the Turkish Air Force (TSK), the article said, noting political survival is the main motivation for Erdoğan’s decision.

 Turkey, for its part, has said that it was the unwillingness of the United States to sell Ankara the Patriot anti-missile system that made it turn to Russia. 

‘’There has been no confirmation that Russia is giving Turkey any more of the sophisticated seeker and guidance technology than what the United States gives to other allied operators of the Patriot,’’ Karako said.

The Patriot system would not fit in with Erdoğan’s developing partnership with Russia nor would suffice as coup insurance, since it is not tailored to shoot down Western aircraft, the article said. 

Erdoğan has accused the United States of being behind the 2016 coup and could be distrustful leaving his protection in the hands of U.S. air defences.

This theory  could go a long way to explaining why Erdoğan is willing to endure considerable U.S. and NATO pressure to acquire the S-400, the article said, in addition to explaining why Turkish defence minister Hulusi Akar still maintains that Turkey remains open to acquiring the U.S. Patriot system.