Turkey is not in the final stages of signing a deal to purchase a second unit of Russian-made missile defense system S-400 as asserted by Russia, a senior Turkish official told Middle East Eye on Tuesday.
The official said there had been no change in the status of the negotiations with Moscow.
On Monday, the general director of Russian state arms supplier Rosoboronexport, Alexander Mikheev, said that the consultations between Turkey and Russia on the new supply of the S-400s were at the final stage. “And in the near future we will go out with partners to formalize and sign a contract,” he said, according to the Russian state media.
Washington imposed sanctions on Turkish officials in December under a US law that bars significant military transactions with Russia due to its initial deal to receive the first S-400 system. Turkey was also removed from the fifth-generation F-35 fighter jet program by the Pentagon in 2019 due to concerns over possible Russian espionage through the S-400s.
Turkish officials held a series of meetings with the Biden administration earlier this year to resolve the issue but both sides couldn’t reach a solution to remove the sanctions.
The Turkish official believes Russia had been trying to manage a perception operation by releasing misleading statements against Turkey amid economic woes in the country and with outstanding issues with Washington.
“The Russians are trying to poison [our] relations with the United States,” the official said.
Turkey has yet to fully activate the already purchased S-400 system, in order to prevent any escalation with Washington.
Russia’s initial deal with Ankara was to provide tech transfer and joint production opportunities to Turkey with the second purchase of the S-400 system. However Turkish officials in Ankara remain doubtful that Russia would provide such critical tech information to their Turkish counterparts unless there is strong political will by the Russian leadership.
ANALYSIS: Ankara mindful of additional sanctions
The Turkish government has successful played Russia against US-EU during Trump administration, scoring some notable gains. In respect to Russia, Kremlin’s fear of losing a useful partner like Turkey, which incidentally is a NATO member, may have compelled it to concede to Turko-Azeri victory in Nagorno-Karabagh. With respect to Trump Administration, President Erdogan’s cozy personal relationship with the POTUS himself delayed a verdict in the long-simmering Halkbank money laundering trial. As a going away gift from Trump to Erdogan, the Congress mandated CAATSA sanctions were diluted to a symbolic slap on the wrist.
It is not clear whether Turkey’s diplomatic corps grasp the depth of the anger in US congress against Erdogan, or Biden has no interest to favor Turkey, which his Cabinet members call an unreliable ally.
Ankara’s unofficial reaction to constant rumors provoked by Russia about the purchase of more S-400s may reflect the observation that the second time around, CAATSA will be tightened to have a significant negative effect on the economy.
While this leak to MEE may have averted a new campaign in Senate to tighten the noose of CAATSA around Turkey’s neck, there is no signal from Ankara that it is returning back to its usual diplomatic ecosystem of US-EU-NATO.
One crisis may have been deferred, but Ankara’s prevarication about which side to bet on in the intensifying conflict between the “West” and China-Russia-Iran triangle promises more to come.
Analysis by PA Turkey staff
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