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Why is Turkey so insistent on buying Russian missiles (and missing out on the F-35)?

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On June 5, 1964, then-President Lyndon Johnson sent a stern letter to Ismet Inonu, the then-prime minister of Turkey, urging him to abandon the imminent Turkish military intervention in Cyprus, which aimed at saving the fellow citizens from being massacred by the Greek-Cypriot EOKA militants. The letter was loaded with threats and ultimatums. Johnson admonished Inonu that the American weaponry provided to Turkey may not be used and an arms embargo would ensue. He further forewarned that such military action would result in Turkeys alienation within NATO. Disillusioned, Turkey turned to the Soviet Union in order to counterbalance the American actions. The United States could only postpone a military intervention in Cyprus for ten years. In 1974, Turkey annexed one-third of the island. The Johnson Letter incident left irreparable damage in Turkish-American relations and is considered to be the official date that bilateral relations began to deteriorate.
Fast forward almost exactly fifty-five years, former acting U.S. Secretary of Defense Patrick M. Shanahan, the former sent a letter on June 6, 2019 to Hulusi Akar, Turkeys Minister of National Defense. Although much less overbearing in tone than Johnsons, Shanahans letter too was full of serious warnings, politely laying out the consequences of Ankaras imminent procurement of the Russian S-400 missile system. He overtly threatened that if Ankara continues this path of action, it will face economic sanctions under the Countering Americas Adversaries Through Sanctions (CAATSA) act. Turkeys effective ejection from the F-35 program is also mentioned in the letter. If Johnsons Letter is the beginning of the souring of relations, then Shanahans Letter heralds that bilateral relations are about to hit rock bottom.

Why is Turkey so adamant about acquiring Russian weaponry, which would result in an irreversible rupture in transatlantic relations[/img]
Related: Turkey pledges response to U.S. sanctions over purchase of S-400 systems
Turkish President Erdogan, too, has his own personal trust issues with Washington. He has repeatedlyaccused Washingtonof collaborating with U.S.-based Turkish preacher Fethullah Gulen in the 2016 failed coup that left an estimated 150 people dead. Furthermore, the twoU.S.-made F-16s in the hands of the rebel pilotscame so close during the coup attempt to downing Erdogans plane on his way to Istanbul but are said to have decided not to because Erdogans pilot faked the identity of the planeas to be civilian.The other F-16s bombed the Turkish Parliament eleven times.Ironically, what was noticed during the 2016 coup attempt is that Turkey did not have any effective defense mechanism against its own American made weaponry! Therefore, Erdogan has a personal stake in acquiring a non-NATO missile defense system, which would thwart his overthrow by a possible future coup.
Then, there is the ever-brewing tension in the eastern Mediterranean, particularly around the island of Cyprus, over the newly discovered massive hydrocarbon reserves. Cyprus, backed by the European Union and the United States, and Turkey are locked into a serious conflict about the extent of their own exclusive economic zones, which would also determine the extent of lucrative natural gas revenues. Turkey has sent its own drillships into zones which Cyprus claims as its own. The tension has now risen to the point where the Cypriot Greek authorities have issued arrest warrants for the crew of a Turkish drilling ship off the Cypriot coast, which, if materialized, could easily boil into a military conflict.
Turkish warships had already several times prevented the Italian ENI drill vessel from reaching a drilling site. Coincidentally, the Greek Cypriot Government granted the offshore drilling rights to ExxonMobil, which is followed by thedeploymentof the U.S. 6thFleet in the area, although the U.S Navy and Turkish security sourcesdeniedthat the cause of the deployment was to protect the interests of an American company. In early March, Turkey flexed its naval muscles byconducting the Blue Motherland naval exercisethe most comprehensive in its historyin the Mediterranean, the Aegean and the Black simultaneously with 102 vessels. In response, Cyprus, Egypt, Greece and Israel, which all lay claim in the gas and oil deposits in Eastern Mediterranean,combined their forces to conduct the Medusa 8 Naval Exercisein the eastern Mediterranean.
Considering Greece is a NATO member, Israel possesses American arms and the U.S. Congress is poisedto lift the arms embargo on Cyprus, the many in Ankara feel the need to obtain anon-American, non-NATO missile defense systemto deter any military confrontation.

Having realized that repeated arms embargoes by NATO allies have created a security gap, Turkey has decided to step up building its own indigenous, sovereign defense industry. This includes the high-altitude missile defense systems providing it so-called anti-access/area-denial (A2/AD) potential, which would threaten aircraft up to 200 miles away. S-400s do just that. Ankara faced with the bitter reality that it needed its own missile systems when the NATO member Germany prematurely withdrew its Patriot batteries from Turkeys Syria border in 2015, citing the high cost of the deployment. That left Turkey vulnerable to attacks from Syria.
The technology transfer is a must to develop such a sovereign defense inventory. For instance, Turkey was able to build its own attack helicopter program (ATAK) in the last ten years, thanks to the technology transfer agreement with Italys AgustaWestland.President Erdogan had saidthat the plan is to completely eliminate external dependency on defense equipment supply with ongoing plans and investments until 2023 [and start developing] unique designs. Happy to fragment the Transatlantic alliance, Russiaincluded the technology transfer clausein the S-400 agreement. President Erdogan has expressed his desire for joint production of S-500.
Whereas it took the U.S. administration seventeen monthsto renew its offerto sell the Patriot missile system, when it did, it did without an offer to transfer technology.
Read the full story here.
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