Turkey ditches NATO’s Air Defense System and Buys Russian
Turkey has taken another big step away from NATO.
When US Secretary of Defense James Mattis held talks in Ankara with Turkey’s Defense Minister Fikri Isik on April 13, most of their conversation focused on Turkey’s bid for a role in the coming Raqqa offensive, which was flatly thrown out by Washington. A side topic of their talks now assumes prominence. Isik disclosed that his government had decided to discard its air defense missile system, which is hooked into the NATO network, and strike out for an independent defense array, based on Russian radar and S-300 and S-400 anti-missile batteries.
Turkey will be the first member of the North Atlantic Alliance to ditch its share in the organization’s defenses in favor of the opposition’s hardware.
Its action throws the entire NATO missile shield for Europe out of kilter, by shifting its defense line to the west of Turkey up to US air bases in Greece and Romania. A whole region from Turkey up to East Europe including Hungary and Bulgaria will be left exposed to ballistic missile attack.
The missile shield strategy, pursued by the United States since 2012 against a potential Iranian ballistic missile attack on Europe, collapses with the desertion of the forward point of this defense line, Turkey.
Washington and NATO Headquarters in Brussels are now concerned that Ankara’s next step may be to shut down the US X-band station located in South Turkey, which is the forward eyes of the US-Israeli shield against Iranian ballistic missile attack. This X-band station is linked to another station in southern Israel opposite the Egyptian border.
For some years, Turkey has complained that the US Patriot anti-missile missiles do not meet its military requirements and that on the whole, the NATO air defense systems are outdated, slow, cumbersome, and generally inferior to the Russian product.
Another grievance was that before firing an anti-air missile, Turkey was required to first apply to the US command center in Germany, which would then order the launch of a US missile from a base in Romania.
This process, said the Turks, does not meet the requirements of current war arenas in the Middle East.