Turkey seeking flawed compromise with U.S. over S-400 missiles - report

Turkey’s is seeking compromise in its crisis with the United States over the purchase of a Russian-made missile system, but there are significant blind spots in its proposed solution, the National Interest said on Wednesday.

Washington and Ankara remain at loggerheads over Turkey’s acquisition of the S-400 missiles from Russia, which U.S. officials say is incompatible with NATO membership.

Turkey took delivery of the missiles in 2019, prompting the United States to remove it from the next-generation F-35 fighter jet programme. And in December, the Trump administration imposed sanctions on Turkey’s defence industry.

But the National Interest said Ankara was looking for ways to reach a compromise along the “Crete  model,” used by Cyprus, citing comments made by Turkish Defence Minister Hulusi Akar earlier this month.

Cyprus purchased a previous version of the missile system, the S-300s, from Russia in the late 1990s. But in the face of strong Turkish objections, the missiles were moved to Greek territory on the island of Crete. The system is kept non-operational and have been tested once in the past decade.

Turkish officials are offering the United States a similar arrangement, according to the National Interest. The missiles will remain in a non-fully operational state, and stored on non-Turkish, non-NATO territory.

“With these compromises, Turkey hopes to be invited back to the F-35 program and to lift current U.S. sanctions under the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA), all while keeping the S-400 systems,” the magazine said.

However, Ankara’s proposal has significant blind spots, it said. “For one, there is no indication that the Biden administration is willing to accept the S-400 on Turkish soil even in an unactivated state.”

The missiles would therefore have to be moved outside of Turkey, but at present there does not appear to be a mutually agreeable destination, especially given the more advanced S-400s pose a greater danger to Turkey’s neighbours, the National Interest said.  

“Neither Greece nor the rest of Europe is likely to tolerate the S-400s in Turkish-aligned Northern Cyprus, while the possible transfer of Turkish S-400s’ to Libya is almost certainly a nonstarter for NATO high command.”