Turkey moves closer to Russia as it pledges to expand defence cooperation with Moscow: analyst

Turkey’s recent pledge to further its defence cooperation with Russia by buying more S-400 air defence systems and even submarines is the latest sign that Ankara is moving further away from the U.S. and the NATO alliance, Turkish journalist Burak Ege Bekdil wrote in Defence News on Thursday.

Bekdil recounts that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan failed to repair relations with the Biden administration in late September. Feeling snubbed, he’s turned to Russia to increase defence industry cooperation with Moscow.

Bekdil also cited Erdoğan’s recent interview with CBS in which the Turkish president lamented the U.S.’ refusal to sell Ankara fifth-generation F-35 Lightning II stealth fighters after Turkey procured its S-400s. He claimed that the U.S. had refused to sell Turkey Patriot air defence missiles, leaving Ankara with no choice but to turn to Moscow.

“In the future, nobody will be able to interfere in terms of what kind of defence systems we acquire, from which country at what level,” Erdoğan said. “Nobody can interfere with that. We are the only ones to make such decisions.”

Even though Turkey was removed from the F-35 program and had sanctions imposed on its defence industry over the S-400s acquisition, under the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) law, Erdoğan remains undeterred. Now he has said Turkey will buy another batch of the Russian missile systems.

“Negotiations [for the second batch] are progressing,” a senior procurement official told Bekdil. “The level [of talks] is strategic and political at the moment. We have not yet reached technicalities, financing and pricing.”

Erdoğan travelled to the Russian resort city of Sochi after being snubbed by U.S. President Joe Biden at the United Nations General Assembly to meet with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin. Following the meeting, Erdoğan said they “had the opportunity to discuss comprehensively what steps to take in the production of plane engines, what steps to take regarding fighter jets.”

On his flight home to Turkey, he told reporters that his government would seek compensation for removing the F-35 program. The next time Erdoğan and Biden might meet will be on the margins of the G20 in October.

In another indication of deepening defence ties with Russia, Turkey might seek submarines from Russia. Ankara is presently part of a program to build six German submarines under license for its navy. However, Turkey is not satisfied with the pace of the program.

The procurement official also told Bekdil that “Russia can be the know-how source to meet our need for engine technology.”

“And not only that; we may soon start talks to acquire Russian fighters as a stopgap solution before our indigenous fighter program matures,” the official said.

Turkey is developing its own fifth-generation stealth fighter, the TF-X. However, it has suffered several setbacks. Its manufacturer has yet to select a suitable engine for the national jet.

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