Last year, upon returning from a trip overseas I asked Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan a question related to the Russian S-400s.
Back then the talk of the day was whether the missile defense systems purchased from Russia were purposely being kept deactivated to avoid a possible reaction by the U.S., as well as scenarios as to how it could remain on standby at Turkey’s hangars.
The question had to do with these arguments.
Erdoğan first answered my question by responding with one of his own as he said: “Why did we buy this system?”
When he replied:“Wasn’t it to use them?”, he confirmed what I said and commenced to gesture with his hands as if to say: “Then why are we still talking about this?”
Let’s fast-forward to today.
Yesterday, footage of the S-400 missile defense system being test-fired emerged in Samsun as it was being transferred to Turkey’s Sinop.
After all the arguments, pressure, threats telling Turkey it can or cannot purchase the missiles; that it cannot activate the system even if it does buy it, the fact that we are here today after three and a half years is no small feat.
Ankara had the S-400s brought to Mürted Airport last year in July.
Following this, all U.S. officials told Turkey: “You have the missiles, but at least don't activate them. The situation today signifies that all the U.S.’s efforts and calls were for nothing.
Let me make you privy to some insider information.
After the S-400 system was brought to Turkey, there was absolutely no sway whatsoever in the determination to activate the system.
Even if there was a slight “delay” due to the coronavirus pandemic, preparations continued backstage.
Training sessions were completed and the system is now ready to rumble.
When we look back today, we can guess that U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s successive visits to the Southern Cyprus and Greece is closely connected to what we are discussing.
It is also clear that the one-day visit to Ankara by NATO’s Secretary General the previous day was also to do with the S-400s.
Following the meeting between the NATO chief and Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, the duo held a press conference, in which they both touched upon the matter.
Çavuşoğlu repeated Ankara’s known discourse and said:
“As a NATO ally we are supposed to meet our defense industry needs within the bloc; but as we were unable to purchase the Patriots or any other defense system from our allies, we were forced to buy the S-400s.”
Stoltenberg, for his part, insinuated that the main reason for his Ankara visit was the S-400s.
Let’s take a look at what he said:
“The s-400 air defense system is not compatible with NATO’s air defense system. Turkey’s purchase of the S-400s poses a problem for us. We have called on Turkey for it to find alternatives to the S-400s.”
Let’s dig a little deeper into what he meant.
Stoltenberg was singing a different tune when Turkey’s purchase of the defense system first came up.
He was saying that as long as it did not threaten the NATO system, that Turkey could pick and choose its defense.
It’s obvious that he couldn’t foresee that the issue would lead to this, that the U.S. would make it a matter of honor, so he put forth a primitive stance on behalf of NATO.
In his speech in Ankara however he said that the S-400 system was incompatible with NATO’s system.
But Turkey didn’t purchase the system to use within the NATO inventory, but to use it for its own means, independently from the bloc’s system.
In other words, when Stoltenberg says something, he expresses it by covering up the real truth.
If the S-400s were to indeed be integrated with NATO’s system, the whining words of NATO’s secretary general could mean something.
However, that’s not the case.
Meanwhile, Turkey, from the very beginning, stated that it would fine-tune the friend or foe identification system itself so that it wouldn’t pose a threat to NATO; it had Russia agree to this, which became one of the most significant articles in the agreement.
When I asked Turkey’s Defense Industry Minister Ismail Demir about NATO’s approach, he replied:
“We have repeatedly said that this system would not be working within the NATO system, and that we would duly do the necessary work. If you take the necessary precautions, it will absolutely not threaten the NATO system. We also stated that we were open to any sort of dialogue to alleviate their concerns.”
There’s the dialogue aspect of the matter too.
From the start; Ankara has offered to form commissions to sit down and discuss all concerns.
However, the U.S. refused to address any of these offers.
Because their real beef was not that Turkey’s purchase would threaten NATO.
If the NATO system would be jeporadized by the S-400s, they would propose to “talk and explain” and try to persuade Ankara.
But that’s not how it happened, is it?