Fake Chinese goods?
METE YARARTurkey’s decision to purchase the High Altitude Air Defense Systems from China was last week’s bombshell story. Not surprisingly, the United States and NATO went up in arms. How could we ever dare to choose a company that was blacklisted in the U.S.? Or a system that would not be operable with NATO’s defenses? Was that all there was too it? Or was there something else that frustrated Washington? The answer is coming up shortly.
But first, a brief introduction to Sino-Turkish cooperation in the field of defense: This is not the first time Turkey and China have cooperated on military issues. The missiles that the army showcases at every Aug. 30 Victory Day ceremony are short-range land-to-land missile systems that are co-produced with the Chinese and with the technology they have provided. Currently, the missile development programs are also being carried out together. Within the last decade, Turkey and China have come to a point of even having joint military exercises. So? If the U.S. is mad at our cooperation with the Chinese, they could have said something a long time ago. Then why the brouhaha now?
Those who follow defense issues can easily recall how the U.S. had reacted to the possible sale of S-300 missiles to Iran by Russia. It did not reach a point of crisis, and who knows what happened behind the scenes, but somehow the U.S. convinced the Russians to give up on that tender. A similar incident took place recently on Syria, when Israel and the U.S. reacted very seriously to the possible sale of S-300s to Damascus, claiming that if delivered, the systems would be a legitimate target.
But then again, why were they treating the High Altitude Air Defense capabilities as “Weapons of Mass Destruction?”
The answer lies in the technical details of the system. These systems are basically land-to-air systems that could be used against cruise missiles, ballistic missiles and any flying vehicle. Their power lies in the multiplier effect on the defense capabilities by creating a protective shield. Such a system carries the country to the Champions League of military defense. A nation’s combat power does not solely rely on attack weapons, but also systems like these to deter adversaries.
Interoperability is also a side issue on this debate. Former Soviet Union countries had similar systems that were used without any need for integration. Warning systems are integrated, but defense shields can easily be independent.
So now the million-dollar question: Why such anger? The answer is the strategic choice Turkey is making by purchasing the system. You would not buy such a sophisticated system from an enemy.
Such a technology transfer would enable Turkey to create its own IFF (identify friend or foe) System. It reminds your once-friendly neighbor that after many years, one day you may start locking your door again.
The second reason would be the seller’s status as one of the U.S.’ main competitors in the world arena. The third reason is about Turkey’s immediate access to the energy fields that the U.S. does not want to share very much.
If the U.S. is so worried about Turkey’s purchase of Chinese systems, maybe it should do something about it, like ratifying the Free Trade Agreement that was within the parameters of the Strategic Framework Agreement. Pretending to do so is hardly enough.
And as we are not going to buy missiles like fake Gucci bags from China, the systems are just fine.
Mete Yarar is a former major in the Turkish Special Forces. He comments and blogs about defense and regional crisis issues.