Russian-Turkish Missile Deal Enacted by Weakening Autocrats

17 Jul 2019

(EDM) Since July 12, Russian transport planes have been landing at the Murted Air Base near Ankara, delivering elements of the S-400 surface-to-air missile (SAM) system, which Turkey purchased despite strong objections from the United States and expressions of concern from the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). Moscow proposed the deal three years ago, shortly after the attempted military coup in Turkey, and the two sides finalized it in December 2017. The purchase signifies a material development of the Russian-Turkish “strategic partnership,” reconstituted after the bitter quarrel in late 2015 over the downing of a Russian bomber that performed a combat mission in Syria and deviated into Turkish airspace. Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has invested much personal effort in executing this deal, describing it as a major achievement in his country’s modern history (Rossiiskaya Gazeta, July 14). This persistence is usually justified with grand but vague geostrategic propositions; however, in this case, for both the Turkish and Russian leaders, domestic political considerations were what mattered most (Voennoe Obosrenie, July 15).

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