The Kremlin said on Wednesday that Russia intends to proceed with delivering S-400 anti-aircraft missiles to Turkey even though the Turks are also buying U.S. Patriot missile systems and have reportedly given American technical personnel access to the Russian weapons.
“These are unrelated processes and in this case, we are implementing the accords we have with the Turkish colleagues. The project and the contract on S-400s is at the stage of its implementation and it will be continued,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.
Peskov suggested Russian officials do not believe the reports that Turkey will permit American techs to examine their Russian missiles. He said the Kremlin expects Turkey to honor its “commitments” to avoid disclosing sensitive information.
“We don’t see any grounds to mistrust our Turkish partners,” Peskov said.
CNBC was considerably more pessimistic on Wednesday about the “messy multibillion-dollar weapon sale” to Turkey, pointing out that Ankara pumped a great deal of money into the American F-35 Joint Strike Fighter project, the very type of stealth aircraft the S-400 is supposed to be capable of shooting down.
Some American officials have been worried about the inverse of the situation Peskov breezily dismissed: the possibility of Russian S-400 experts getting an uncomfortably close look at Turkey’s F-35s or using Patriot technology to improve Russian anti-aircraft missiles.
Military analysts wonder how Turkey can possibly integrate the incompatible Russian and American systems into a functioning air defense network. The S-400 has different capabilities than the Patriot, so the two could theoretically provide complementary benefits, but getting them to work together smoothly is technically difficult and politically impossible.
“Turkey’s march toward procuring the Russian missile system has raised concerns among its fellow NATO members and Washington, who are wary of Moscow’s increasing military presence in the region. Meanwhile, Congress has pushed back on the scheduled transfer of two F-35 jets to Turkey,” CNBC noted.
CNBC quoted analysts who believe the Patriot sale to Turkey will be canceled and might even have been floated primarily as a symbolic gesture of improved relations between Washington and Ankara. Some thought Turkey is playing a double game that could end with both Russian and American sales canceled. There is also the delicate diplomatic question of whether Turkey will violate sanctions against Russia imposed by the Trump administration in 2017 by purchasing S-400 missiles.
As of Tuesday evening, the U.S. State Department said the $3.5 billion sale of about 150 Patriot missiles and associated launch and radar equipment to Turkey was approved. Both the U.S. Defense Department and NATO have insisted Turkey can make no effort to integrate the Russian S-400 with Western systems such as the Patriots, the F-35, or the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missile shield.