The Turkish Minister of Defence defended again on Tuesday Ankara’s decision to acquire Russian S-400 missiles, which caused his country to face American threats but also a suspension of the delivery of the F-35s. In doing so, the Minister stated that the S-400 missile batteries will probably be used to defend Ankara and Istanbul. But is there an “air” or “ballistic” threat against these two big cities?
“Turkey expects to receive Russian S-400 air defence batteries by June,” Turkish Defence Minister General Hulusi Akar announced on Monday, April 15 in Washington at the 37th Joint Annual Conference of the Turkish American Affairs Council (TAIK) in Washington. Hulusi Akar, speaking to dozens of American officers, also acknowledged that Moscow had proposed a delivery schedule for the S-400 systems.
The Kremlin spokesman paid tribute earlier this week to Turkey for resisting American pressure and blackmail on the S-400 delivery file. General Akar considered that the purchase of the Russian S-400 ground-to-air missile systems was part of Turkey’s inalienable right and that this decision was a matter of security and defence.
“We call on NATO member states to take the necessary technical measures. The S-400s will probably be responsible for defending Istanbul and Ankara while the F-35s will be stationed in Malatya (central Turkey),” he said to Turkey’s NATO partners
Washington had warned that if Turkey bought the S-400 system, it could secretly obtain critical information on F-35 jet aircraft, including their detection range. These data, the Americans say, risk being relayed to Russia.
General Hulusi Akar said that Turkey is currently trying to use “all means” to ensure the security of its 82 million inhabitants against air and missile threats against his country. “They will probably be used in the defense of Ankara and Istanbul,” Akar said, surprising analysts. Are the two Turkish cities of Ankara and Istanbul really threatened? And if so, by whom?
To convince his listeners, Akar stressed that Turkey would need many air defence systems to control its entire airspace, going so far as to mention “the recent terrorist attacks from Syrian territory”. And the Turkish minister added: “Terrorists attach explosives to improvised aircraft and use them against our people,” said General Akar without further specifying his idea.
He stressed that Turkey respects the territorial integrity of Syria and has “no intention” of occupying its lands.
But is Turkey really afraid of being attacked by suicide bombers?
“The Turkish Defence Minister’s comments, according to political scientist Sadollah Zareï, refer to the idea of a no-fly zone that could be set up all around the Turkish capital and in Istanbul, once the S-400 batteries have been deployed. The terrorists mentioned by General Akar would send back to the Kurds, but we have never seen anti-Turkish attacks on suicide bombers. Beyond Turkey’s desire to convince American reluctance and to play both Russian and American sides, it would seem that Turkey is preparing for something. In any case, the idea of wanting to barricade the two major Turkish cities of Ankara and Istanbul, from a power that is part of NATO, is unheard of, says the analyst, but he points out that this pro-S-400 speech allowed the Turkish to win a large part of the battle in the north and attracted the green light from Russia.
Turkey’s decision to purchase two S-400 air defence systems equipped with four batteries from Russia for $2.5 million resulted in an agreement signed by both parties on 29 December 2017. Turkey vehemently rejected Washington’s appeals. Erdogan said on April 3 that this purchase was a decision to be taken by Turkey. The two F-35s already delivered to Turkey are currently at Luke Air Force Base where Turkish pilots are being trained. The jets were scheduled to be transferred to Turkey in October 2019.