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By haggling over S-400s, Turkey seeks to outfox both Russia and the US

Mevlut Cavusoglu. Photo: trt.net.tr

In an interview to Aksam, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said that if Russia’s opponents do not want Turkey to buy S-400 systems from that country, they should offer their options to Turkey.

On Sept 12, Cavusoglu said that Turkey would agree to buy the systems if they were produced on a joint basis. This has stalemated the Russians. They cannot give the Turks this technology as it is their state secret and knowhow. The Russian President’s military-technical cooperation assistant Vadim Kozhin says that this is out of question. Cavusoglu’s words imply that it is time for the Turks to look for another sellers, more specifically, to buy analogues from the opponents of their military partnership with the Russians. In an interview to EADaily, several experts said that the Turks will hardly look for analogues. Long before they signed the deal with the Russians, they had one option in their mind but the seller was not satisfied with the price they offered for the product.

“The Turks have already prepaid for Russia’s systems. The deal does not mean that they will get the systems tomorrow. They will first have to be produced, tested and paid for. So, whether the Turks will buy the systems or not is a matter of future,” senior researcher at the Institute of World Economy and International Relations of the Russian Academy of Sciences Viktor Nadein-Raevsky said.

“The Turks’ decision to haggle was not just their whim. They faced a very negative response from the Americans. And now that the Saudi King Salman has visited Russia, the Saudis may follow the Turks’ example. This is why, immediately after the visit, the U.S. Department of State decided to sell the Saudis THAADs. The Americans may do the same with respect to the Turks. For example, they may offer them Patriots. So, what Cavusoglu said was just an attempt to make best of this situation and to get a good price for the Russian systems. Theoretically, the Americans may still sell their Patriots to the Turks but they will hardly do this now.

Today, U.S.-Turkish relations are entering a quite dangerous phase. On Oct 5, the Turks arrested employee of the U.S. Consulate General in Istanbul Metin Topuz on suspicion of being privy to Fethullah Gulen’s organization. Topuz has been accused of attempts to undermine Turkey’s constitutional order, to spy against that country and to overthrow its ruling regime. Similar charges have been laid against one more employee of the consulate. The investigators have even interrogated his wife and children. The United States and Turkey are now engaged in closing their consulates and suspending the issue of non-immigrant visas. This is a very dangerous moment and it may change a lot in U.S.-Turkish relations. It is hard to say how this conflict will develop. The Turks’ key requirement is to give them back Gulen. They have more proofs of his complicity in the last year’s attempt to topple Erdogan. Both Gulen and the Federal Judiciary of the United States deny this. And this may be the key reason why the Turks have arrested Topuz and his colleague. The conflict is developing and only time will show what it will end in. The Americans’ decision to give THAADs to the Saudis proves that they are ready to make concessions to the Turks but first the sides will have to solve the Gulen problem – a problem that is not very easy to solve.

“Cavusoglu’s controversial interview where he said that the Turks wanted to cancel their deal with the Russians implies that they want to buy Patriots from the Americans and to pay a lower price for them,” said Head of the Military Forecast Center Anatoly Tsyganok. “The Turks were eager to buy Patriots but the Americans wanted a high price for them. Now that King Salman has visited Russia, the Turks have seen that the Americans are concerned and this is a chance for them to put the squeeze on them. This is a vivid example of the Turks’ multi-vector policy: in order to prove his partnership, Erdogan signs a deal to buy military systems from the Russians and even prepays for them, but Turkey is a NATO member, and when the right moment comes, he suspends the deal and expresses wish to buy cheaper analogues from the Americans. I think Cavusoglu and Erdogan already know that the Americans are yielding. Trump may well lower the price by some 1/3,” Tsyganok said.

According to the expert, Cavusoglu’s statement was an insulting demarche against Russia. “I doubt that the deal will be implemented. Unless the Russians cancel it, they will certainly review its terms. When I first heard that the Turks were going to buy S-400s, I was astonished. A NATO member was going to buy military systems from Russia!? It was like if some Warsaw Pact state had cancelled its military deals with the Soviet Union and had accepted NATO standards. On the other hand, the Turks still want to buy our armored vehicles simply because they are more efficient in highlands than their foreign analogues are. Now that the Turks are facing growing Kurdish factor both inside and outside their country, they really need such equipment,” Tsyganok said.

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