- Turkey’s interest in the surface-to-air Patriot defense system grew after civil war broke out in Syria in 2012
- Still not clear whether Ankara will renounce its recent deal with Moscow to buy the S-400 surface-to-air missile system
ANKARA: Turkey is considering a deal to buy the US Patriot missile system in a move that could improve relations between the NATO allies, according to US Acting Assistant Secretary of State for Political-Military Affairs Tina Kaidanow.
“We’re trying to give the Turks an understanding of what we can do with respect to Patriot,” Kaidanow told Reuters on Monday. “Turkey has an interest in Patriot, so we’ve been looking for a while at how we can make that work.”
She said that Washington wants defense systems acquired by US allies “to support the strategic relationship — and in the case of Turkey that is Patriots.”
The move reflects the expansion of US defense trade in allied countries. It also signals an improvement in relations between Ankara and Washington following a falling out over Turkey’s deal with Moscow to buy the Russian-made S-400 missile system.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and US President Donald Trump also held a phone conference on Monday to discuss plans to stabilize the Syrian city of Manbij.
Turkey’s interest in the surface-to-air Patriot defense system grew after civil war broke out in Syria in 2012.
However, it is still not clear whether Ankara will renounce its recent deal with Moscow to buy the S-400 surface-to-air missile system, which is due to be delivered in July next year.
The Russian long-range, anti-aircraft system can target ballistic and cruise missiles.
Both Lockheed Martin Corp. and Raytheon Co. build parts of the surface-to-air Patriot, the only system within the alliance that can provide effective defense against ballistic missile attacks.
“Turkey buying Patriot systems from the US instead of S-400 systems from Russia would be good for Turkey, the US and NATO,” Ozgur Unluhisarcikli, Ankara office director of German Marshall Fund of the United States, told Arab News.
However, “Turkey would need to reach a deal with Raytheon and then walk away from the deal with Russia. Only then can the US Department of Defense appeal to the US Senate for approval of the sale,” he said.
According to Unluhisarcikli, Senate approval cannot be taken for granted, particularly given negative perceptions of Turkey in the US Congress.
US officials, including members of Congress and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, have expressed their dismay over Turkey’s decision to buy the Russian S-400 system while also ordering the US F-35 joint strike fighter. The S-400 system is known as the “F-35 killer.”
The Pentagon is worried that the integration of Russian systems in Turkish defense networks could put sensitive information about US-made strike fighters and their capabilities at risk.
If Ankara walks away from its Russian purchase and the US Senate later rejects a Patriot deal, tensions between the two NATO allies will increase dramatically, Unluhisarcikli said.
“A costly alternative that could eliminate this risk is Turkey honoring the S-400 deal, but not plugging in the S-400 systems in case there is a successful deal on Patriot,” he said.
“However, for Turkey to buy Russian equipment it will not use in addition to US equipment, the offer from Raytheon will need to be very attractive.”
Caglar Kurc, a researcher on defense and armed forces, said that the US is seeking to stop Turkey buying the S-400 system.
“Although the Turkish side say they are seeking a compromise, including training Turkish military in Russia rather than having Russian technical staff in Turkey to prevent any security vulnerabilities, the US is worried about F-35s and S-400s hooked up into the same system,” he told Arab News.
Kurc said that the Patriot missiles could meet Turkey’s needs until a new air defense system, co-developed by Turkey and Eurosam, is deployed.
“When compared with the S-400, the main advantage of the Patriots is that they can be integrated into NATO’s radar network. This would enhance its ability to track and engage possible targets,” he said.
“The S-400 might be the best air defense system, but its effectiveness would be hampered without integration.”