The S-400 or missiles of discord between Moscow and Washington
The acquisition of the Russian S-400 anti-aircraft defense system by Turkey alarms Washington, which refuses a NATO country to equip them. And not only for matters of principle.
Recep Tayyip Erdogan holds his anti-aircraft missiles S-400. Washington has denounced for weeks this purchase of Russian weapons, threatening Ankara economic sanctions, the Turkish president is stubborn. On July 9, he rejected the repeated warnings from the United States and asked his US counterpart, Donald Trump, not to "undermine bilateral relations with Russia." He also assured that the delivery of Russian equipment was imminent, indicating that he was ready for the standoff between Ankara and Washington to degenerate into a diplomatic crisis.
The Turkish President has not given a specific date for handing over the four batteries of the Russian S-400 air defense system, but the international media - from the Financial Times to Al Jazeera - are speculating about a delivery that would coincide with the third anniversary of the failed coup in Turkey on July 15, 2016.
Russian wolf in the sheepfold of NATO
Recep Tayyip Erdogan refuses to give in because he "intends at least one of these anti-missile devices to defend his palace, and he does not want to use American equipment for this purpose," says Gustav Gressel, a specialist in defense and security issues. from Russia to the European Council of International Relations, contacted by France 24. "Since the failed coup, the Turkish president has become more paranoid, and he has much less confidence in the United States that he suspects, especially through the CIA, to support some opponents, "adds the expert.
The United States is just as stubborn. Mainly because the purchase of this $ 2.5 billion anti-aircraft defense system would make Turkey the first NATO member state to turn to Russia for its military arsenal. In the current context of diplomatic tensions between the United States and Russia, this simple fact would be enough to provoke Washington's ire.
But with the S-400, the US administration also fears that Ankara will bring the Russian wolf into the fold of NATO. "In the years 1960-1970, a country could mix and buy, for example, German tanks, Russian planes and American missiles, because all this material worked in closed circuit, that is to say that these equipments do not did not communicate with each other, "notes Gustav Gressel. Today, systems are open and integrated. In other words: an air defense system will fetch information from planes, radars, the command center.
All parts must work together. The integration of the Russian S-400 in the Turkish military device - set up by NATO - is "to buy a Mac while everything else runs on Windows: there may be compatibility problems", summarizes the l German expert. The United States is not thrilled with the idea of giving access to the data transmitted by NATO equipment to a Russian device "of which only Moscow holds the keys," he adds. This anti-aircraft defense system could contain a small spyware program that would trace all the information it collects back to Moscow.
The S-400, a product of appeal
The establishment of the S-400 will also "require the arrival of Russian engineers who will ensure that their equipment fits well with the rest of the Turkish defense system, which means they will demand access to all available data, "notes Gustav Gressel. In these circumstances, Washington has already warned that it is suspending the delivery of stealth F-35 fighters sold to Turkey, for fear that the Russians can obtain confidential information on these latest aircraft.
The United States also does not want Turkey to set a precedent. So far, "only China holds S-400, and even though several other states - including Vietnam, Qatar and India - have indicated interest, no other sale has been finalized yet" , says Gustav Gressel. Washington has threatened sanctions against all governments that have considered acquiring them.
A proliferation of S-400 would indeed be very bad news for Americans. "This Russian anti-aircraft system is among the most advanced in the world and is capable of shooting down planes, missiles and even drones in a very wide range [up to 400 km, Ed]", explains Derek Averre, a specialist in Russian military matters at the University of Birmingham, contacted by France 24. The United States or their allies could see their ability to respond quickly and efficiently with aircraft or drones limited if Russia managed to multiply sales of S-400. "Especially the Israelis - whose military reaction is very much dependent on their air force - who would be very unhappy about the countries in the region buying them," said the British expert.
"It's not only a question of military security, but also an industrial and economic challenge," says Gustav Gressel. Countries adopting the S-400 would be encouraged to buy from the Russians for the rest of their air defense. "Moscow would say to its customers: 'You already have the S-400, why not buy Sukhoi [Russian fighter plane, Ed], they are made to work together'", says the German expert. The risk for Washington is that Russia succeeds in conquering markets at the expense of the American giants.
Whatever happens, the US-Turkish standoff is a good deal for Moscow. If Ankara stands up to the end in Washington, Russia will have managed to put a military foot in a NATO country while showing the way to other potential buyers. If Ankara yields, the S-400 will at least have served to create tensions between two allied NATO countries. In any case, this anti-aircraft defense system has proved its usefulness, either militarily or as a bone of contention.