We’ve known that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been getting particularly cozy with Vladimir Putin for a while now, even as he mocks and belittles his supposed NATO allies. When it comes to the situation in Syria it’s always been questionable as to which side he was on and what his long range intentions were. Some of those questions were answered this week when Erdogan announced that he has a signed deal in hand for Turkey to receive the S-400 missile system from Russia. (Reuters)
Turkey has made progress in plans to procure an S-400 missile defense system from Russia and signatures have been signed, President Tayyip Erdogan said on Tuesday.
“Steps have been taken and signatures signed with Russia concerning the S-400s. God willing we will see the S-400s in our country,” Erdogan told lawmakers from his ruling AK Party at a party meeting in parliament.
NATO member Turkey said in April it had reached a “final stage” in talks to procure the air missile defense system. Turkey will not be able to integrate the Russian S-400 into the NATO system.
There’s little mystery as to what Erdogan is thinking about in terms of using his new toys. After all, a weapon unused is a useless weapon as the saying goes, and all the action is in Syria at present. Erdogan’s posture there is already more than suspect to begin with. You’ll recall that he recently moved some of his military within striking range of the Kurds who are currently working with the United States. On top of that, just last week Turkey leaked the locations of American forces in the region to the press. Anyone getting nervous yet?
The S-400 systems that Erdogan is getting from Russia are particularly problematic. For one thing, as the Reuters article points out, it gives us a hint of how much of team player Turkey is being. Those systems can’t be readily integrated with the NATO command and control infrastructure in the region so they’ll be mostly going freestyle. And the S-400 is nothing to mess around with. This analysis of the weapons platform from The National Interest earlier this year describes many of its capabilities and the reason everyone should be keeping a wary eye on the situation. It’s believed that one of the reasons that President Trump’s strike on Syria following Assad’s chemical weapons attack was done primarily with long range cruise missiles is that the Russians already had the S-400 in the region.
On paper, the S-400 system is designed to destroy aircraft, drones, and cruise and ballistic missiles up to 400 kilometers away; it is also equipped with a radar able to detect targets at a range of 600km. Since its installation in Syrian territory, the action of Western and Turkish warplanes in support of rebel forces has been limited.
The presence of S-400 platforms in the Syrian theater possibly influenced the US strategy of attack against the Assad regime. The USS Porter and USS Ross, two Arleigh Burke-class destroyers stationed in the eastern Mediterranean, bombarded the Shayrat airbase in central Syria, which the Syrian Air Force used to launch suspected chemical attacks that left dozens of civilians dead in rebel-held Khan Shaykhun.
Here’s an older video of the set-up and operation of the S-400. They don’t actually get around to firing any until around the three minute mark if you want to skip ahead, but it’s an impressive and highly mobile set-up.
I’m sure we’re going to be keeping an eye on where Erdogan deploys these systems when he takes delivery. We can only hope that he plans on using them against our mutual enemies, but there’s no doubt that Turkey is upping its game and become an even larger factor in the military situation there than they already were. With friends like these you don’t need enemies.