Erdogan plays the ‘SA-21 Growler (S-400)’ in surface-to-air missile system talks with Putin

There is already huge interest in Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s visit to Moscow on March 9-10, but news that he is to discuss a possible purchase of Russia’s advanced S-400 surface-to-air missile system (the “SA-21 Growler”) has added another layer of intrigue.

Russian S-400
Relations between Turkey, a Nato member since 1952, and Russia seemed set for the deep freeze back in November 2015, with Russian President Vladimir Putin even blanking Erdogan’s calls after a Turkish fighter shot down a Russian SU-24 fighter-bomber said to have strayed into Turkish airspace from operations in Syria. But 16 months later it is Erdogan’s relations with Brussels and the North Atlantic Alliance that have grown worryingly chilly, while the reset of the relationship with Moscow is gathering pace.

The prospect of an S-400 SAM acquisition by Ankara has disorientated top military and geopolitical analysts, although several feel the mooted buy is just a piece of Erdogan mischief that will not go anywhere.

Starting with the military side, the experts are unsure whether Nato would even accept a member country running such a major-league Russian air defence system alongside its own technologies. Approached on the matter by bne IntelliNews, a Nato official gave a guarded response. After stating that it is “up to Allies to decide what military equipment they buy”, they pointed out that “in general terms, connecting to military equipment from countries outside the alliance can raise serious security implications”.

Some analysts, of course, believe Moscow will eventually baulk at completing the negotiations for the S-400 mobile missile system. After all, should the Russians’ traditionally unreliable relationship with the Turks once more take a turn for the worse, they could one day find themselves up against their own anti-aircraft hardware. They would be giving Turkey an even better capability to shoot down their own jets in the future.

Both sides, however, insist the bargaining is dead serious. The matter has been placed on the agenda of the High-Level Russian-Turkish Cooperation Council, which will meet during the Erdogan visit.

Source: By Will Conroy in Prague – (  March 8, 2017


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