The S-400 scandal damaged the US reputation in the global arms market

This post was published in Vzglyad. The point of view expressed in this article is authorial and do not necessarily reflect BM`s editorial stance.


MOSCOW, (BM) – The story around the loud blackmail of Turkey by the United States over the Russian S-400 systems has reached the final point. Washington has finally decided the fate of the F-35 fighters, commissioned by Turkey – they will be supplied to the American armed forces.

The paradox is that in this way the United States punishes itself in the first place.

The scandal, of course, was huge.

First, the United States concludes with Turkey the most important military-political contract for it. Ankara is not only promised to sell the latest F-35 fighter-bombers (which would seriously strengthen the potential of the Turkish army and would be useful in terms of Erdogan’s aggressive foreign policy in the Middle East), but they are allowed to produce components for these aircraft. In addition, Turkey would become a repair hub for F-35s purchased by countries in the region.

Prestige, money, opportunities, technology – all this was promised to Ankara.

Cruelly deceived

And she was deprived of all this after she decided to purchase the S-400 systems from Russia. The American response to this purchase was the suspension of all obligations to Turkey under the F-35 contract.

Formally, because the operation of the latest aircraft next to the Russian air defense system will help Russian engineers somehow read information about the vulnerabilities of the F-35, but de facto, simply because Ankara dared to buy weapons from Moscow.

Initially, Washington wanted to resolve the conflict with Ankara in a brotherly manner. Leading Republicans in the Senate bluntly offered the Turks an exchange: the United States resumes cooperation with Turkey on the F-35 program, in exchange for which Ankara sells the S-400 system acquired by Erdogan from the Russian Federation to Washington. The money for the purchase of Russian weapons was even preliminary contributed to the defense budget for 2021.

Americans need this system to learn – not only to counter Moscow, but also to counter other countries that will acquire the S-400 to defend against American democracy flying on the wings of bombers.

For example, China, which has already acquired Russian systems and is developing their analogues. However, the chances for the implementation of this plan were, to put it mildly, low – Turkey refused such a deal, which would have become a fatal blow to both the authority of Erdogan [who positioned the purchase of the S-400 as an example of Turkish sovereignty] and Ankara’s ties with Moscow.

Therefore, it was necessary to resolve the conflict in a businesslike manner – that is, to make concessions to Turkey only where necessary.

The planes were never given to Ankara. After a year of hardships and doubts, Washington managed to attach F-35s, which were assembled for the Turkish Air Force by the private company Lockheed Martin. They are now known to be acquired by the Pentagon, and also pays for all the necessary modifications for the United States military.

As for the Turkish suppliers for the production of the F-35, then they had to make concessions. Initially, Congress was determined to kick Ankara out of the project as soon as possible and demanded that the Pentagon work faster on plans to replace Turkish suppliers with alternative manufacturers in the aircraft program.

The deadline for the expulsion of the Turks from the project was set for March 2020, and almost $ 300 million was allocated for this noble cause. However, then they decided to postpone the deadlines, and still fulfill the contractual obligations with Turkish suppliers and buy components for the aircraft from them until 2022.

The cost of contractual obligations to Ankara is almost $ 9 billion – and the Turks themselves calculated that breaking these contracts would cost America $ 600 million, plus an increase in production costs from seven to nine million for each aircraft assembled.

Therefore, according to Pentagon spokesman Mike Andrews, in order to avoid “costly, disruptive and wasteful contract breaks,” the decision was made to fulfill the existing contracts, and then switch to alternative suppliers.

Actually, the Turks themselves agreed to produce components, even taking into account Washington’s refusal to supply ready-made F-35s to Ankara. Big money, as well as production experience with its subsequent application in the Turkish military-industrial complex is more important than some kind of offense.

Mood and reputation

It would seem that now the conflict can be considered settled – but this is not so. The Capitol needs to be continued – an anti-Turkish consensus is emerging in Congress. Congressmen are concerned about the direction Turkey is heading under Erdogan’s leadership.

Violating human rights in Syria, groundlessly arresting Americans in Ankara, cooperating in the military sphere with Russia, Turkey does not behave as a responsible player and does not work together with the West at the level that we expect from a NATO member state.

American politicians have no reason to hope that Turkey will start living up to their expectations. Recep Erdogan’s plans to transform his country into a new Ottoman Empire [if not owning, then at least controlling territories from Morocco to the borders of Iran] pose a serious threat not even to the interests, but to the security of the West.

Of course, there are alternative points of view in Ankara. “The ruling Justice and Development Party opposes two other political forces created against it and led by former associates of Erdogan. And if Erdogan himself and his entourage are in favor of greater independence for Turkey, then his rivals are striving for greater ties with the United States,” says Vladimir Avatkov, senior researcher at IMEMO RAN, associate professor of the Diplomatic Academy of the Russian Foreign Ministry, to the VZGLYAD newspaper.

However, the chances of a political victory for Erdogan’s opponents are small, and the West cannot help them in organizing the coup (one such attempt four years ago not only failed, but sharply increased the authority of the Turkish Sultan).

A new hurricane in US-Turkish relations may come soon – for example, if Congressmen push new sanctions against Ankara for violating the “Act on Countering America’s Enemies through Sanctions”.

It forbids third countries not only to build Nord Stream 2 together with the Russians, but also to buy serious weapon systems from them. For example, S-400.

However, the consequence of these sanctions is unlikely to be Erdogan’s submission. “In this situation, the strengthening of sanctions pressure, and simply pressure on Turkey, leads to the opposite effect: Ankara is very proud and responds to pressure with an even greater desire for independence and intensified cooperation with other players.

For example, with Russia – without leaving NATO, Turkey is strengthening ties with Moscow in the field of economy and security. He buys the S-400 and discusses other contracts that will allow Ankara to achieve greater independence in its military-industrial complex, ”explains Vladimir Avatkov. Contracts that will be the prologue of a new storm.

The whole world saw that the United States was an unreliable partner in arms procurement. They easily abandon the signed contracts. And not even because there was a coup in the country [as was the case with Egypt, where the Americans refused to supply weapons after the overthrow of the Muslim Brotherhood and President Mohammed Morsi], but simply because the country dares to cooperate with the enemy of the United States.

And since the purchase of weapons is not carried out on the basis of the “buy-pay-dump” principle (the suppliers of weapons then serve them, the military are trained to work with these weapons – and the supplier country has a serious impact on the development of the armed forces of the recipient state), then potential buyers now there may be a dilemma.

They can order expensive and sophisticated weapons from the United States – and then live under the sword of Damocles of breaking a contract or the dependence of their armed forces on unreliable suppliers. Or choose another seller country (Russia, and in the future China or even Turkey), which does not bind the fulfillment of its contractual obligations with the fulfillment of some political conditions by the buyer.

The choice, as they say, is obvious – as well as the damage to American politics from such a choice.


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