US Patriot offer not good enough for Turkey

US Patriot offer not good enough for Turkey

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s comprehensive statements on Turkey’s determinacy in purchasing and deploying Russia’s sophisticated S-400 anti-ballistic missile systems have hit the headlines in recent days.

Erdoğan has informed that the systems will be deployed in July 2019, a few months earlier than scheduled, reiterating: “We made the S-400 deal with Russia, so it out of the question for us to turn back. That’s done.”

On questions about negotiations for the purchase of the U.S.-made Patriot air defense systems, Erdoğan implied that that the offer made by the Americans was not good enough.

A reaction to statements by Erdoğan was delivered by U.S. Vice President Mike Pence, who said: “We will not stand idly by while NATO allies purchase weapons from our adversaries. We cannot ensure the defense of the West if our allies grow dependent on the East,” at the Munich Security Conference over the weekend.

At this point, a quick reminder would be useful: Talks between Turkey and the U.S. over the sale of Patriot air defense systems were resumed after signs of normalization of bilateral ties have been observed following the release of pastor Andrew Brunson in October 2018.

On Dec. 18, the U.S. State Department approved a possible foreign military sale of the Patriot air and missile defense system to Turkey for an estimated total of $3.5 billion. The sale includes about 80 Patriot MIM-104E Guidance Enhanced Missiles (GEM-T) missiles, 60 PAC-3 Missile Segment Enhancement (MSE) missiles and associated equipment. The State Department also notified the U.S. Congress on the sale. Fifteen days after the approval, on Jan. 3, a U.S. delegation formally made an offer to Turkey for the sale of Patriot air defense systems.

Two separate delegations from the U.S. had held talks with their Turkish counterparts on the offer in the last six weeks. One of the delegations conveyed U.S. concerns over Turkey’s deployment of S-400s on a NATO soil where a number of allied radar systems and military facilities are situated. A particular matter of concern was the safety of new generation stealth fighters, F-35, as two of them are scheduled to be deployed in Turkey’s military air base in Malatya at the end of this year.

In parallel with these talks, the U.S. detailed its Patriot offer to Turkey but underlined that it can only supply them on the condition that Turkey cancels its deal with Russia on the S-400s. It also urged Turkey that it wants to hear Ankara’s reply before Feb. 15, according to reports.

Along with this non-starter condition, the other aspects of the U.S. offer were far from fulfilling Turkey’s criteria in purchasing an air defense system. Turkey has roughly five main criteria in choosing an air defense system: Joint production, technology transfer, local participation, delivery period and price advantage.

The U.S. Patriot offer, however, is only close to fulfilling the criteria on the delivery period, as Erdoğan stated. “Joint production, providing a loan and early delivery are criteria that we attach importance to. Although they are positive for early delivery, they can’t promise providing credit and joint production,” he was quoted as saying.

Under these conditions, reports suggest that Turkey’s official reply to the U.S. offer was a negative one. It’s also known that Turkey’s stance has been made clear to the American officials at the highest level.

Turkey seems to have closed the Patriot subject with the Americans while accelerating the S-400 deployment process. This may lead to important consequences in defense ties between the two countries as well as on political bonds.

Turkey’s deployment of S-400s would activate a new set of sanctions against Turkey and would complicate its continued participation to the F-35 project. Accompanied with a number of other problems stemming from Syria and the U.S. support to the YPG, the S-400s sale obviously constitutes yet another major challenge in front of Turkish-American relations in 2019.