Washington- The United States has informally discussed with Turkey the unlikely possibility of sending its Russian-made S-400 missile defense systems to Ukraine to help fight Russian invasion forces, three sources say. close to the file.
US officials have shared the suggestion over the past month with their Turkish counterparts, but no specific or formal request has been made, the sources said. They said it was also briefly mentioned during Under Secretary of State Wendy Sherman’s visit to Turkey earlier this month.
The Biden administration has asked allies that used Russian-made equipment and systems, including S-300s and S-400s, to consider moving them to Ukraine as it tries to repel a Russian invasion that has started on February 24.
The idea, which analysts said would certainly be rejected by Turkey, was part of a larger discussion between Sherman and Turkish officials about how the United States and its allies can do more to support Ukraine. and how to improve bilateral relations.
Turkish authorities have not commented on any US suggestion or proposal regarding the transfer to Ukraine of Ankara’s S-400 systems, which have long been a point of contention between the two NATO allies.
Turkish Foreign Ministry officials were not immediately available for comment.
Turkish sources and analysts have said such a suggestion would be a failure for Turkey, citing issues ranging from technical obstacles to installing and operating the S-400s in Ukraine, to political concerns such as the backlash Ankara would likely face from Moscow.
Washington has repeatedly asked Ankara to get rid of Russian-made surface-to-air missile batteries since the first delivery arrived in July 2019. The United States has imposed sanctions on the Turkish defense industry and removed NATO member Ankara from the F-35 fighter. spray program accordingly.
Ankara said it was forced to opt for the S-400s because the allies failed to provide weapons on satisfactory terms.
US officials are keen to seize this moment to bring Turkey back into Washington’s orbit. Efforts to find “creative” ways to improve the strained relationship have accelerated in recent weeks, although no specific proposals have so far gained traction, US and Turkish sources said.
“I think everyone knows that the S-400 is a long-standing problem and maybe now is the time when we can find a new way to solve this problem,” Sherman told Turkish broadcaster Haberturk in a interview on March 5.
Exactly what she meant was unclear, and the State Department did not respond to questions about her comments. The White House did not respond to a request for comment on the suggestion made during his visit to Turkey.
The effort is also part of a broader bid by the Biden administration to heed Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s call to help protect Ukrainian skies. Russian or Soviet-made air defense systems such as the S-300s possessed by other NATO allies and the S-400s are sought after.
A source familiar with American thinking said Washington’s wavering of the possibility was the result of a renewed effort to improve relations at a time when Ankara has been spooked by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan did not receive a specific warning from Russian President Vladimir Putin about his plans for a full-scale attack on Ukraine, another source familiar with the talks said.
Turkey shares a maritime border with Ukraine and Russia in the Black Sea and enjoys good relations with both. He said the invasion was unacceptable and expressed support for Ukraine, but also opposed sanctions on Moscow while offering mediation.
Ankara has carefully crafted its rhetoric so as not to offend Moscow, analysts say, with whom it has close ties in energy, defense and tourism. But Ankara has also sold military drones to kyiv and signed a deal to co-produce more, angering the Kremlin. Turkey also opposes Russian policies in Syria and Libya, as well as its annexation of Crimea in 2014.
“Turkey has successfully walked a knife-edge and a transfer of a Russian S-400 would certainly lead to severe Russian anger,” said Aaron Stein, research director at the Foreign Policy Research Institute in Philadelphia. “And for Erdogan, the S-400 has become a symbol of Turkish sovereignty, so exchanging it wouldn’t just be roses and flowers.”
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