Just a few hours after Turkey announced it would return the Russian S-400 operator trainer back home, a move that is supposed to appease the US to have the opportunity to continue the F-35 sale. then Moscow claimed the opposite. Apparently the S-400, F-35 deal and the tense gamble between Russia, the US, and Turkey
“The S-400 system will be completely under our control. We have sent many delegations of technicians to train. Russian military experts will not stay in Turkey anymore,” said Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu. said on television on May 31,
Turkey suddenly announced that it would return a Russian expert tasked with training and controlling the S-400 system back home, a move that is said to assuage Washington’s concerns in the context of a high-level meeting between Turkey and Russia. two countries is coming.
However, soon after, Russian officials said that the team of experts supporting the S-400 system in Turkey was still working as planned and was not asked to return home.
“The repatriation of a delegation of Russian technical experts working in Turkey related to the S-400 contract will be carried out in accordance with a previously approved plan,” a spokesman for the Military Technical Cooperation Agency said. Minister of the Russian Federation Valeria Reshetnikova said on June 3.
The presence of Russian military specialists deployed to install the S-400 system and train Turkish personnel is one of the major concerns of the United States, as Washington believes that Moscow’s forces can continue to access and obtain a wealth of intelligence data on secret NATO technologies.
Turkey ordered two Russian S-400 missile systems worth $2.5 billion in December 2017.
Russia completed the delivery of these weapons to Turkey in January 2020. Ankara conducted its first test firing in October 2020 and vowed to continue testing the S-400 without asking for Washington’s permission.
The US has repeatedly opposed the contract, saying that the S-400 is incompatible with NATO defense systems and threatens the F-35 stealth fighter.
To punish the S-400 contract, Washington excluded Ankara from the F-35 program, refused to hand over 105 F-35A aircraft it ordered and removed Turkish defense corporations from the F production line. -35.
However, so far, it seems that the S-400, F-35 sales are not only a problem for Turkey, but also Russia and the US.
On the US side, it is clear that Turkey’s choice of S-400 instead of Patriot causes the US a lot of damage. Initially, in terms of financial benefits, Turkey had to spend $ 2.5 billion to pay Russia to own the S-400 air defense complex.
This money would have belonged to the US if they had initially agreed to sell Patriot to Turkey.
Before coming to the S-400, Turkey asked to buy a Patriot defense system, but the US shook its head and refused with the excuse that NATO’s air defense fire network located in Turkey was enough to protect. Ankara.
Observers said that the US forced Turkey to be protected under the NATO air defense fire network in order to increase Ankara’s dependence. Image of the US Patriot defense system deployed in Turkey.
But with a tough and independent person like President Erdogan, the US has miscalculated the move, because if asked and the US does not sell, Turkey will look to Russia.
When the contract worth 2.5 billion was signed and the deposit was transferred, the US was startled to find a way to deal with it by offering to sell Turkey the latest version of the Patriot system with the power close to THAAD. , but then Ankara still refused.
And when it failed to convince Turkey, the US brought the F-35 card to bargain. But apparently Washington also understands that Ankara has contributed money to the F-35 project, and they are also stepping into the production of components that make up this fighter.
If they do not sell the F-35 to Turkey, in addition to losing a huge amount of money, they also have certain difficulties in finding subcontractors to replace Turkey to produce components of the F-. 35.
If Turkey does not buy American or Western fighters, but chooses to buy Russian and Chinese fighters, it will be more difficult for the synchronization of weapons standards set by NATO, while Turkey is a member. has a rather important geopolitical position of this bloc in containing Russia.
It is clear that the US is also confused in weighing the loss of the F-35 deal with Turkey. Perhaps because of this, the F-35 fighters in the deal with Ankara continue to be produced by the US.
After being rejected by Turkey’s proposal to cancel the S-400 deal with Russia, the F-35 card was offered by the US to bargain. However, the Turkish side knows its advantages as well as its difficulties in swinging between Russia and the US.
If you listen to the US and abandon the S-400 deal, the deposit will be lost, the fine from Russia is not small. Besides, Ankara will also have to spend at least the same or more money to buy American Patriot, because simply, American air defense weapons will usually be more expensive than Russia’s.
On the other hand, spend money to buy US weapons, but maybe Ankara will have to “tie hands” by certain operating terms, because Washington is still famous as a country that sells weapons with political claims without Not every country can afford it.
Turkish President Erdogan once voiced suspicions that the US was behind the failed coup attempt against him in 2016, which prolonged tensions between the two countries for a period of time afterwards. So if buying from the US, he worries that Turkey will still be held back by the US.
Although fragile, Turkey can still hope that the US will have to hand over the F-35 to it based on the facts, currently the US side continues to train Turkish F-35 fighter pilots. . If Washington really “falls in love”, they certainly will not spend time on this.
However, the US is leaving open the fact that the F-35s already produced will be delivered to Turkey. Both the US and Turkey are considering the right steps to best benefit themselves in this deal.
There have been rumors that if there is no F-35 from the US, Turkey will buy the Russian Su-35 instead. However, analysts say that if this solution happens, it is just “extremely bad” that Ankara has to do it.
To be fair, the Su-35 is Russia’s strong 4+ generation fighter compared to its Western competitors. But after all, they are still not 5th generation fighters, while future combat is gradually leaning towards long-range air combat, where 5th generation stealth fighters have absolute advantage.
On the other hand, even though it is a 4+ generation fighter, the price of the Su-35 is not cheap when it is about 115-120 million USD / unit, which is on par with the US F-35.
And if Turkey buys a stealth fighter Su-57 to replace the F-35, it is more impractical, because the Su-57 is simply not perfect, and even the Russians cannot equip it in large numbers. this fighter. Currently, there is only one aircraft in the official service capable of participating in combat.
Moreover, the Su-57 is also said to have less stealth than the F-35, and certainly their cost will be much more expensive than the Su-35. If buying a fleet of more than 100 Su-57s to replace the F-35, Turkey will have to pay a much higher amount, even twice as much as the F-35.
The Turkish Air Force has a tradition of owning and operating all US-made fighters, buying Russian fighters will be a difficult problem in terms of weapon synchronization, as well as maintenance costs. would be extremely expensive.
On the Russian side, it is clear that the S-400 deal with Turkey is both an opportunity with many advantages but also a challenge. Opportunity because this is the first time Russia has succeeded in selling a modern air defense system to a NATO member, which has strict requirements on weapons synchronization standards.
Some NATO members still own the S-300 air defense system, but simply because they were previously close allies, even in the Warsaw military bloc – a counterweight to NATO established by the Soviet Union. . After joining NATO, they still retain key weapons systems including the S-300.
Russia’s success in the S-400 deal with Turkey is a strong blow to the prestige of NATO’s weapons synchronization.
In addition, this deal also causes deep divisions within NATO both now and in the future.
The United States and NATO have threatened to deny Turkey continued participation in the bloc’s defense network, where intelligence is updated, as well as the integration of anti-aircraft fire networks among member countries.
The reason given by the US and this bloc is that the integration of the S-400 into the NATO defense network will help Russia get intelligence, from which the NATO defense network will be ineffective.
In addition, the US believes that, taking the opportunity of the S-400 to enter the NATO defense network, Russia will take the opportunity to obtain information about the F-35 stealth fighter that is a part of this defensive fire network. that would make the combat capability of the aircraft used by most NATO members very dangerous.
However, it would be difficult for a key member like Turkey to not be included in the bloc’s defense network. This goes against the principle of operation of this military bloc. So, although small, Russia will still have the opportunity to access the defense network of NATO.
But in return, Russia also has to pay a large price, first of all, not a small part of the amount in the S-400 deal with Turkey is a loan from Russia. This means that Moscow actually sells the system on credit to Ankara. In the context of the economy is tight because of the embargo, in fact the S-400 deal “only has a reputation without a piece”.
On the other hand, Russia is also said to have given up a part of its status as a great power when it quickly agreed to step down in tension when Turkey publicly shot down its Su-24 in Syria in 2015. Like many the time Ankara “slapped the face” of Syria right in front of Russia. The abandonment of the steadfast line of defending allies, as well as defending their own prestige, more or less eroded the confidence of allies in Russia.
Moreover, although Russia has cut its features when exporting, but S-400 is still the main weapon in the Russian anti-aircraft fire grid and is a “golden egg” in the export market. In the event that Turkey agrees to the US and allows American experts to share this system, it will be a great loss for Russia.
If the above case happens, this is a huge challenge not only for current national security but also for exports. Customers will be hesitant and difficult to cash in when a defense system is dissected and studied by its main competitor.
Russia also understands that Turkey is “swinging” in the strategic arms partnership between them and the US, so it is also reasonable for Ankara to suddenly change its attitude, or take unfavorable steps for Moscow. Russia has to take into account and it causes a lot of headaches for the country’s strategic planners.
It is clear that the S-400 and F-35 deals are a gamble where the Americans, Russians and Turks all have to strain their heads to think more about losses to take the most profitable steps