Turkey received its first shipment of an advanced Russian missile defense system earlier this month, ignoring repeated warnings from Washington and fueling concerns about where the country’s loyalties lie between the West and Moscow.
The primary concern of the US is that the Turkish purchase jeopardizes the security of NATO’s new F-35 stealth fighter jet.
Defense analyst Thymis Tsiliopoulos spoke to the Greek Reporter on the various issues of concern which stem from this deal going forward. His replies to our questions are in italics.
Will the purchase of the S-400 missiles by Turkey have an impact on the NATO alliance?
“It is definitely going to have an impact on those countries within NATO that are buying the F-35’s who do not wish the F-35 to be compromised by the S-400 missiles, if the F-35 was ever to be given to Turkey.
Now, this does not mean that several other countries within the EU and NATO like Germany, for example, are actually seeming to call against Turkey. I don’t think this has infringed at all on Germany’s relationship with Turkey, in fact, Germany just shipped hundreds of millions’ worth of euros of military equipment to Ankara just a few days ago.
So in some sense, all those countries that feel aligned with the United States within NATO are going to basically be against this acquisition by Turkey. Germany and whatever cause it has, will not, it will try to make a war of words rather than actually taking a real stance on the issue.”
What can we expect in the Aegean?
“The S-400 per se as a weapon system unhinges things in the Aegean. It remains to be seen where the [weapon system’s] batteries will be placed. If they will be placed towards Cyprus in order to cover that front, or if they will be placed towards the Aegean to cover this front. They may even be split up, which detracts from their effectiveness.
The thing is, if they are set up near the Aegean, it “unbalances” the balance of power in the Aegean. This means that it will be able to target Greek jets immediately after takeoff within a very large portion of the Aegean, thus setting at risk Greek attempts to stem Turkish attacks by the Turkish air force; so, in that sense, yes, it is a problem.
On the other hand, if it’s placed near Cyprus it’s a problem for the Cypriots and the powers that are helping the Cypriots — at this point, France perhaps, (or) Israel or Egypt — who may or may not come to its aid, or even Greece.
Although it seems like a defensive weapon, in terms of its entire aircraft missile system, it has such a long range that it’s basically a phantom in that it precludes the use of the enemy’s airforce within its reach.”
How will this deal affect Greek-Turkish relations?
“In this sense, the S-400 is not going to cause a problem. It’s not an escalation of any problems with the Greek-Turkish relationship, although once it becomes operational, it will mean the Turks will have more of leverage to provoke Greece and could actually use this.
Modern jets have a warning, even earlier generation jets have a warning if they are being picked up by radar, so even if they just turn on the radar and lock Greek planes on, that is a threat, and a perceived threat is a threat. One doesn’t know how this is going to pan out.
On the other hand, there are ways to balance this out in the event of conflict.
As an expert in this area, what is your main concern?
“My main concern is, that at this point, even when all the major powers are warning against [Turkish President Recep Tayyip] Erdogan’s ambitions in the eastern Mediterranean and drilling illegally in the Cyprus EEZ, he is feeling more and more isolated.
Feeling like a cornered rat makes someone very aggressive and because he is an unpredictable person, in a tactical sense, one does not know where he is going to lash out.
For example, could Greece become the whipping boy for his risking his ties with the United States? One never knows. Or, is he actually going to, and with what strength, attack in Syria again, which he claims he is planning to do, and what will this mean in terms of his relationship with Russia and Syria?
He is doing things that antagonize him even with his newly-found friends and that’s not healthy; so it seems like it’s a bubble that will burst somewhere. One does not know where.”