Washington: Does Turkey need this ‘difficult’ friendship with Russia?

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WASHINGTON, (BM) – There are relations between Turkey and Russia that can be called “unique.” In the 19th century, there was a series of wars between these countries, as a result of which Turkey gradually ceded part of its territories to Russia.

For several centuries, Russia has closely watched Constantinople [modern Istanbul], because the Russian tsars considered themselves the direct successors of the Byzantine Empire. During the First World War, these two countries waged bloody military campaigns against each other in the Caucasus.

After the end of World War I and the fall of the Ottoman Empire, modern Turkey established relations with the Soviet Union, partly because the Bolshevik government, led by Vladimir Lenin, abandoned traditional claims in Western Armenia and Constantinople. Moreover, it was thanks to the supply of Soviet weapons that Mustafa Kemal [Kemal Atatürk], the father of modern Turkey, gained power and defeated the Greeks in the Greek-Turkish war.

The situation was complicated after the end of World War II, when the Soviet Union emerged from the non-aggression pact signed in 1925. Turkey joined NATO in 1952, and it sent its soldiers as part of the UN forces to participate in the Korean War.

If the situation was difficult in the past, now it has become completely incomprehensible, because Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, obviously, continues to establish relations with both sides.

This week, Russian state-run media reported that Turkey’s portfolio of orders for Russian equipment is estimated at about $1 billion.

“Today we can state that the portfolio of Turkish orders for Russian equipment is estimated at about $1 billion,” said Dmitry Shugaev, head of the Federal Service for Military-Technical Cooperation, in an interview with Turkish TV channel Eko türk tv, as reported by the Russian agency TASS. “We have a serious solid foundation and a good foundation for further progressive development and cooperation in the military sphere.”

According to some reports, Russia and Turkey have reached an advanced stage in negotiations on the supply of the second regiment kit of the S-400 Triumph anti-aircraft missile system. Moreover, Russia is obviously ready to discuss the possibility of technological cooperation with Turkey, which may imply the direct participation of Turkish companies in production.

“Negotiations [on this issue] are underway, this is a laborious process, requiring a certain time. But given the current restrictions in connection with the pandemic, to predict the terms of concluding this contract is not very grateful,” Shugaev said in an interview with TASS this week.

In September 2017, Russia announced that it had signed a $2.5 billion contract with Turkey to supply the S-400 anti-aircraft missile system. In accordance with this contract, the Turkish armed forces have already received the first regimental set of S-400 systems [two battalions]. In addition, production technology was partially transferred to the Turkish side.

Russian S-400 anti-aircraft missile systems were designed to counter a range of air targets, including aircraft, cruise missiles and ballistic missiles. In addition, they can be used against ground structures and installations. The range of the S-400 is 400 kilometers, and they are capable of hitting targets at an altitude of up to 30 kilometers.

The list of buyers and potential buyers includes China, India, Saudi Arabia and Qatar. Meanwhile, Turkey, which has the second largest armed forces among NATO countries, became the only member of this alliance who decided to acquire these Russian complexes. US congressmen warned Ankara that the purchase of the S-400 would have a long-term negative impact on bilateral relations.

Because of Ankara’s decision to buy Russian military equipment, Turkey – although it is a member of NATO – was expelled from the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program, and the United States threatened it with unilateral sanctions. Fearing the imposition of such sanctions, Turkey even stockpiled spare parts for US-made F-16 aircraft and other military equipment.

Despite the exclusion from the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program, in late April, Turkish subcontractors continued to manufacture and supply parts for the implementation of this program.

Now that Turkey has been expelled from this program, the question is whether Ankara will consider alternatives to F-35 aircraft. In August 2019, the Russian agency TASS reported that a Turkish delegation led by President Erdogan got acquainted with the Russian Su-35 and Su-57 fighters during the MAKS-2019 international aerospace show in Zhukovsky near Moscow.

Obviously, the situation will remain difficult for a long time to come.


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