US officials view Turkey as an important NATO ally and have urged it to drop its plans to buy the Russian-built S-400 air defense system so that its companies could continue to build critical parts for a wide range of other US weapons systems beside the F-35 fighter jet.
Turkey, of course, is not sitting on its hands and doesn’t give a toss if this could enable Moscow to glean all sorts of useful intelligence against NATO. Ankara says it will retaliate against US sanctions over its deal with Moscow. Defending the purchase, Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu says Turkey will choose its defense equipment. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has also said “the S-400 is coming in a short time”.
Indeed, Turkey’s S-400 purchase is a done deal under international law as its F-35 jets are yet to leave US soil. Turkey joined the program in 2002 and without its participation the program could collapse. This means Ankara has no other option but to buy fifth-generation fighters from Russia as well.
Turkey won’t bow to US sanctions over its agreement to purchase S-400 surface-to-air missile defense system. America’s once-formidable global might is going down the drain, and unlike what Vice President Mike Pence would like to suggest, Turkey cannot be forced to choose whether it wants to remain in NATO or buy the S-400s. It now hardly matters that the US has itself to blame. Many probably don’t remember, but Trump himself once said the US made the mistake not to sell Patriots to Turkey.
There would be days of outraged media attention and interviews with the “concerned” military brass, diplomatic threats of every sort, but the US will fail to force Turkey to terminate the transaction. Like its failed trade and tariff wars, sanctions and levies on Turkish goods will also fall short, which is not accidental. White House isolationists and Pentagon officials cannot interpret the new macro-level global developments. The decline of American influence, an increased awareness of Trumpism, and the failed military and trade wars have all worked together to erode America’s position and arms trade monopoly across significant parts of the globe.
Adding additional tension to the mix, this isn't just a Turkish phenomenon, it's distinctly global. Several other countries plan to buy Russian S-400s as well, despite the threat of sanctions and trade restrictions. As the American arms trade monopoly unravels with unimagined speed, these countries are not mourning its passing either.
Joining Turkey’s chorus of good riddance to US military influence, Qatar, Algeria, Morocco, Egypt, Vietnam and Iraq plan to buy the S-400s. They are in no mood to yield to Washington’s pressure, as the S-400 is the affordable answer to Pentagon’s expensive Patriot and THAAD platforms. Besides, the laws that regulate Russian weapons exports are not a jumbled mess, especially when it comes to dual-use technologies, such as surveillance and detection networks, or complex technologies with military and civilian applications.
China and India have also signed purchase agreements with the Kremlin. For all the American diplomatic posturing, India is no longer willing to stick with the cumbersome process of buying weapons from the US. New Delhi doesn’t want to wait for Washington’s regulatory hurdles. The S-400 has no export restrictions and sales have no political strings attached.
The political temperature in Washington is rising fast and dumping America’s military influence is not a pretty sight for Pentagon accountants. Turkey’s qualified endorsement of Russian platforms stems from motives for adopting independent policies that go hand in hand with its national security and defense doctrine. Washington’s grubby hypocrisy, perpetual falsehood and diplomatic pressure have failed to stop this new global trend.