Turkey threatens to take their military business to Russia... again

With so much else going on in the world, we’ve haven’t heard quite as much out of Turkey lately. Once President Recep Tayyip Erdogan finally released some of his hostages, things seemed to be cooling down a bit, but now he’s back in the news. And as usual, the Tyrant of Turkey is being his usual antagonistic self. As Turkey continues to defy their supposed allies and further cozy up to Vladimir Putin, Erdogan plans to go ahead with purchasing Russian S-400 missile defense systems. The White House responded by threatening to cut off other military sales to Turkey and things went downhill from there. (Reuters)

Turkey warned on Wednesday that it could buy jets and additional air defense systems from Russia if it cannot get Patriot missile shields and F-35 jets from Washington, raising the prospect of ever deeper defense ties between Moscow and a NATO member.

President Tayyip Erdogan’s existing plans to buy Russian S-400 missile defenses have already alarmed the United States, which says they are not compatible with NATO systems and would compromise the security of F-35 jets Turkey is due to receive.

Washington has offered Ankara both carrot and stick in response, proposing to sell it the Raytheon Co. Patriot systems instead of the S-400s, while at the same time warning of sanctions and a halt in the F-35 fighter jet sales if the Russian deal goes ahead.

The Turks are claiming that they’re going ahead with the S-400 purchase because the sale was already negotiated and it’s a “done deal.” That’s nonsense, of course, because purchase orders are canceled all the time. The real issue here is whether or not our supposed allies plan to continue playing on our team. The S-400s aren’t compatible with other NATO systems, so it’s a weak link in our defensive chain. If they had no other options on the table we might be able to understand the choice, but the White House has already offered to sell Erdogan Patriot missile systems in place of the Russian equipment.

So now we’re in the position of not only not sending them Patriots, but also cutting off their opportunity to buy our new F-35 Lighting fighter jets. (Pretty much our top of the line hardware in that department.) The Turkish response to that proposal was delivered by their Foreign Minister, who said that if we don’t sell them the F-35s they would just go back to the Russians and start buying their SU-34s or SU-57s.

This would put more money in Russia’s pockets while strengthening the ties between Erdogan and Putin. What a lovely situation. At some point, either Erdogan needs to decide once and for all if he still wants to be an ally of the west or we need to decide it for him. If he’s not going to play ball and would rather be aligned with the Russians, Turkey shouldn’t continue to reap the benefits of being a NATO member. He’s already established closer ties to Iran and the current Syrian regime than he has with most of his other neighbors as it is.