NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg has described Turkey’s purchase of Russian S-400 anti-ballistic missile systems as “a difficult issue” for the alliance while at the same time welcoming the Turkish government’s cooperation with the French-Italian consortium on the procurement of SAMP-T to augment its air defence.
“I am aware that Turkey has made an agreement or they have announced their intention to buy S-400 Russian air defence system. That’s a national Turkish decision. What matters for the NATO is whether it will be integrated into the NATO air defence system. There has been no request for that,” Stoltenberg told a group of international reporters on Feb. 20 at the alliance headquarters.
“It goes without saying that it will be a difficult issue,” the secretary-general explained since the Russian system will not be interoperable with the NATO’s air defence systems.
In reaction to the United States’ rejection of transferring technology to Turkey as part of a potential procurement of Patriot systems, the Turkish government has long been seeking alternative sources for a high-tech anti-ballistic missile system. After a failed attempt to purchase Chinese systems, Turkey signed an agreement and paid a deposit to Russia for the purchase of nearly $2.5 billion worth S-400s.
The S-400 deal has worried the West because the system cannot be integrated into the NATO’s air defence architecture. As part of the NATO’s collective defence pledge, the allies integrate their ships, planes and weapons systems to make them work together, as well as sharing command across the alliance.
There are also concerns that Turkey’s S-400 deal with the Russians would further strengthen ties between Ankara and Washington and that this procurement could trigger U.S. sanctions on Turkey because of the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA). The law stipulates sanctions on countries and companies that engage in defence procurement contracts.