Turkey did not get the deal it hoped for when it went for Russia’s S-400 air defense systems.
Recall that when in 2013 when it begun looking around for such a weapon Turkey was most interested in the American Patriot and French/Italian Aster, but wanted technology transfers to go with the actual missile launchers.
It was this insistence on technology transfers which scuttled the deal prompting Turkey to make a surprise announcement it had opted for a Chinese arms manufacturer, which was supposedly willing to share technology, instead.
It seems that was not exactly the case because that deal was likewise aborted in 2015.
With the Russian-Turkish relations entering a thaw after the attempted July 2016 coup attempt in Ankara, the Turks quickly begun talking up a deal to purchase Russian anti-aircraft missiles and technology, albeit they had ambushed and shot down a Russian military jet on the Syrian-Turkish just a year prior, in November 2015.
However, the Russians consistently said they would be happy to sell the missiles, but technology transfers were unrealistic.
Nonetheless both sides confirmed earlier this year that some kind of a S-400 export deal had been made, but it was not exactly clear what kind. Supposedly two of the four S-400 batteries would be assembled in Turkey which could mean the deal would involve some tech transfer.
The Turks have now clarified that this is not the case. The Turkish defense minister has said Sunday that the purchase of Russia’s S-400 missiles is “complete” but that Turkey is discussing a “further” deal with the French-Italian EUROSAM consortium to help it develop its own missile defense system.
Clearly, if even after the deal with Russia Turkey will still need tech transfers from Italy and France it means they won’t be getting much, or anything at all from the Russians.
Last month the massive Russian news portal Gazeta.ru even claimed the S-400 systems will be sold to Turkey without internal control codes so that its friend-or-foe logic may not be altered by the Turks.
Another thing, having gotten a lot less than it hoped for from Moscow Turkey is clearly checking with the French-Italians if they will make a better offer. Something like what the Turks asked for in 2013. If they do, the S-400 transfer may not even happen.
Despite the Turkish ministers’ assurances, there is no way where deals with Russians and Europeans can both take place. There is no way Europeans, who already declined to transfer tech before Ankara signed onto the S-400 deal, will help Turkey develop own missiles after the Turks award Russia $2.5 billion in a straight weapons sale — that’s the least of what they would ask for themselves.
If that really happens, we can talk of a masterful Turkish feint where they cozied up to Moscow to extract concessions from NATO they could not get before. The Russians won’t be too bothered either, seeing the Turks have already made a down-payment on the deal.
On the other hand, if EUROSAM doesn’t come around, there will remain a suspicion the Turks maneuvered themselves into a hard Russian S-400 bargain they first conceived of only as a bluff.