Turkey to discuss use of its S-400 air defense system

Turkey was expelled by the U.S. from the Lockheed F-35 Lightning II program because of its choice to buy and operate Russian-made S-400 air defense missiles which is consirered as incompatible with a NATO member status. The cuntry now wants to open discussions for the "Crete model" regarding the use of its S-400 missile system, Defense Minister Hulusi Akar said on February 9.
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S-400 air defense system (Picture source: Army Recognition)

Addressing reporters in the capital Ankara, Defense Minister Hulusi Akar evaluated the tensions between Turkey and the United States over the Russian-made S-400 air defense system, Daily Sabah news agency reports. "We will open negotiations for a model used for the S-300s in Crete", he said referring to Greece's use of the Russian S-300 missile system despite being a NATO member. He also added that there are many NATO members, which were part of the Warsaw Pact led by the Soviet Union, who continue to use Soviet-made defense systems and weapons.

The U.S. argued that the system could be used by Russia to covertly obtain classified details on the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II stealth jets and is incompatible with NATO systems. Turkey, however, insists that the S-400 would not be integrated into NATO systems and would not pose a threat to the alliance. As an example, the minister pointed out that, since the late 1970s, the Russian-made S-300 system has been sold to 20 countries, including NATO member countries such as Bulgaria, Greece and Slovakia.

In 1996, Greece signed a deal with Russia for the purchase of S-300s for deployment on Greek Cypriot soil, Daily Sabah recalls. These missiles could not be deployed in southern Cyprus as a result of Turkish pressure, but in 1998, they were deployed in Crete, whose strategic importance has been rising steadily. Furthermore, Greece signed new agreements with Russia in 1999 and 2004 to purchase Tor-M1 and Osa-AKM (NATO code : SA-8B) medium- and low-altitude air defense systems. These Russian-made air defense systems are currently an integrated part of the Greek air defense system and have also been deployed by the Greek Cypriot administration.

NATO, similarly to the U.S., argues that alternatives to the S-400s should be found. In October, Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg reiterated that it is a national decision what kind of defense capabilities different allies acquire. “But at the same time, what matters for NATO is interoperability and the importance of integrating air and missile defense, and that cannot be the case with a Russian system S-400,” he said. Ankara has repeatedly stressed it was the U.S.' refusal to sell its Patriot missile systems that led it to seek other providers, adding that Russia had offered a better deal, including technology transfers. Turkey even proposed setting up a commission with the U.S. to clarify any technical issues.