Ankara has made the down payment for the purchase of Russia’s S-400 anti-aircraft systems, signaling closer cooperation with Moscow and a widening rift with its NATO allies, which have criticized the deal.
“Our friends have already signed an agreement on the S-400s. A deposit has also been paid, as far as I know. The process will continue by the transfer of a credit from Russia to us. Both Mr. Vladimir Putin and myself, we are determined on this issue,” Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan told journalists after returning from Kazakhstan on September 10.
The contract, which had been the subject of speculation for several years, was indirectly confirmed by Moscow.
“The buyer has the prerogative in announcing the purchase, but it is necessary to note that supplying these systems is consistent with Russia’s geopolitical interests,” said the Federal Service of Military-Technical Cooperation in a statement.
This July, Turkish media reported that Russia would supply two batteries and help Ankara build two more such systems, capable of engaging with up to 80 targets within a range of 400 km. The deal is reportedly worth $2.5 billion, though none of the details have been officially confirmed.
The Pentagon said it has “relayed concerns” to Ankara over the purchase. In a statement released Tuesday, it insisted that “NATO’s interoperable missile defense system remains the best option.”
Erdogan, whose country commands the second-largest army in NATO, dismissed objections from Ankara’s traditional allies.
“It’s us who will make decisions regarding our independence. We are responsible over taking security measures for the defense of our country. We’ll save ourselves if we face difficulties in procuring defense systems,” he said.
The Turkish president also recalled a 2013 US decision to cancel the supply of Predator drones over security concerns, comparing it to the ease with which Washington arms Kurdish movements in Syria which Ankara considers terrorists.
“They give away tanks, cannons and armored vehicles to the terror organization for free but we can’t procure some of our needs, although we want to pay for them. What happened in the end? We started to produce our own drones and armed drones. We have killed 90 terrorists with the armed drones in the last week,” said Erdogan.
Germany, another NATO ally with whom Turkey has enjoyed a rocky relationship, declared Monday that it was freezing all major arms exports to Turkey.
For Russia, which is also building the TurkStream gas pipeline, a major joint venture with Turkey, this is not just a sign of a rapidly warming relationship with Ankara, but a pointer to its flourishing arms export industry.
The presidential aide for military-technical cooperation, Vladimir Kozhin, said during news briefing in Moscow Tuesday that there is a “waiting list of eager buyers for the S-400,” which is currently being deployed in Syria.
China has also confirmed a multi-billion dollar deal with Moscow while India has approved its own purchase, but no finalizing documents have yet been signed.