Is Turkey under Prime Minister Recep Tayip Erdogan going ahead with the missile defence deal with China? There has been strong reaction in Western capitals against the proposed deal by a Nato member with a serious rival of the West. What is Erdogan thinking and why is he so upset with the US and NATO to go elsewhere?
October 28, 2013, 09:21 EDT
When Turkey announced last month that it was going to buy FD-2000 missile defense system from China Precision Machinery Import and Export Corp (CPMIEC), it set off alarm bells in Washington and other Nato capitals.
Ankara was accused of betraying Nato of which it is a member. Others called it an act of sabotage since it would expose Nato to Chinese penetration. Yet others said the Chinese and Nato systems would not be compatible. This last point is valid.
Turkey passed over rival systems from Russian, the US and European firms. The deal is worth $3 billion. It may not sound much in the context of the US selling $66 billion in weapons annually but in these tough times, every dollar counts.
It is, however, not dollars or euros that the West lost but decision by a key Nato ally to go elsewhere.
As described by an Asia Times Online article: The FD-2000 is an export version of the HQ-9 that appeared in 2009 and is marketed as a next-generation improvement on the Russian S-300 system, but whose fire control radar looks more like the radar matching US-based Raytheon's Patriot missile system.
Some Western defense analysts clearly expressed surprised at Turkey's decision, having expected the contract to go to Raytheon Co, a US company that builds the Patriot missile, or the Franco/Italian Eurosam SAMP/T.
According to Turkey’s Hurriyet Daily News, About half of Turkey’s network-based air defense radars have been paid for by NATO, and are part of the NATO Air Defense Ground Environment. “Turkey can always decide to build a standalone system. But in that case, abstracting the air defense system from NATO assets would mean that Turkey will lose half of its radar capabilities,” one defense analyst said earlier.
American and European defense contractors have not greeted the news well. They feel that Turkey should have farmed out the money to their coffers.
The negative reaction from the West has been so strong that Turkey has issued a borderline recantation. Turkish President Abdullah Gul has said Turkey's decision to co-produce a long-range air and missile defence system with a Chinese firm that is under US sanctions was not final and Turkey was still evaluating the deal, local media reported. Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu made similar soothing noises to calm US-Nato allies.
It seems Prime Minister Recep Tayip Erdogan is going ahead. He feels slighted by the Americans for not following his demands on Syria and he is sending a clear signal that he is his own man, despite Turkey being a member of Nato.
How this Chinese puzzle is solved will indicate which way the camel will sit.