With a plan in motion to arm Ukraine with Slovakia’s S-300 air defense system, US officials are also pushing fellow NATO member Turkey to send its Russian-made S-400. The US is prepared to send the Patriot missile defense system to replace it, and possibly allow Ankara to purchase the F-35.
The idea was reportedly pitched by Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman when she visited Turkey earlier this month. The State Department and the Turkish embassy have not commented on the proposal.
The Biden administration sees several benefits in the plan. It would provide Ukraine with more advanced air defense – the S-400 is a newer upgrade from the S-300 – while it would also integrate Turkey with other NATO states that use the Patriot system. Moreover, Washington believes the move would upset the relationship between Ankara and Moscow.
Turkey is currently playing a leading role in negotiations to end the conflict in Ukraine, hosting the highest-level talks so far. Turkey’s foreign minister reported Sunday that several points of agreement had been made between Kiev and Moscow.
Should it agree to the arms shipment to Ukraine, however, Turkey may lose its perceived neutrality in the talks and could deal a major blow to diplomacy.
Turkey bought the S-400 from Russia in 2019 over vocal objections from the US, which at one point even sanctioned Turkish officials over the purchase. Washington also responded by booting Turkey from the F-35 program, after years of joint work in developing the problematic fighter. Ankara has demanded reimbursement for the $1.4 billion it sunk into the project, but so far to no avail.
Earlier this week, Turkey’s Defense Industries President Ismail Demir – one of the officials sanctioned over the S-400 deal – said his country had all but given up on the issue, calling the F-35 discussions "closed," and added that Ankara had no plans to obtain Patriot batteries anytime soon. He made no mention of Sherman’s proposal, however.
While Washington may enjoy seeing Russian missiles shooting down Russian aircraft over Ukraine, severing ties between Ankara and Moscow could have steep consequences, risking an end to the Turkey-sponsored peace talks and even an escalation of the war itself.
Kyle Anzalone is the opinion editor of Antiwar.com and news editor of the Libertarian Institute. Will Porter is the assistant news editor of the Libertarian Institute and a staff writer at RT. Kyle and Will host Conflicts of Interest along with Connor Freeman. Reprinted from The Libertarian Institute.