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Ankara’s Pivot Towards Moscow Continues; Turkey to Receive Russian S-400 Missile System in July 2019

April 05th - 2018

The Turkish Defence Ministry’s Undersecretariat for Defence Industries Ismail Demir confirmed that Turkey’s armed forces were to receive the Russian made S-400 surface to air missile system in July 2019, after a request by Ankara to speed up the delivery of the weapons system. The official stated regarding the delivery: “At the meeting of the High-Level Russian-Turkish Cooperation Council, we discussed the possibilities of cooperation in the defense industry area. The date of the start of supplies of S-400 air defense systems within the framework of the agreement signed with Russia was rescheduled for an earlier date and is planned for July 2019.”

Turkish requests for an accelerated delivery of the S-400 came following significant pressure from the United States and the wider Western Bloc to cancel the acquisition and instead purchase a Western made air defence system. These requests were since obliged by Moscow, which has prioritised delivery of the weapons system to Ankara. While Western pressure has been considerable, and the United States has gone as far as to repeatedly threaten economic sanctions against Turkey and potentially even the withholding of advanced F-35 stealth fighters in response to the country’s acquisition, Turkey has not only sought to take a stance far closer to non alignment than other NATO members but also has significant need for the S-400 to protect its airspace from potential threats. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has notably referred to the S-400 as particularly useful for its ability to target the most advanced U.S. stealth aircraft such as the B-2 and F-22 - a reference which came in the wake of heightened tensions with Washington. The S-400 has been sought out by a number of longstanding Western arms clients due to its unique and truly unrivalled capabilities, which include its range, mobility, accuracy and counter stealth systems among other significant attributes. It was these capabilities which led Turkey to reject the U.S. made Patriot and Chinese HQ-9 in favour of the Russian platform. 

Russia’s delivery of the S-400 to Turkey represents a part of Moscow’s strategy to strengthen strategic cooperation with the Asian NATO member, which has since begun close coordination with Moscow in its operations in Syria and made a notable shift away from the Western bloc. This capitalised on a souring of relations between Ankara and the West following a failed coup attempt against the country’s government in July 2016, which is suspected by President Erdoğan's government of having been supported by the Western bloc and a number of its Arab allies to bring Turkish policy closer into line with their own.

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