SACEUR Says Turkey’s Decision to Buy Russian S-400 Isn’t a Done Deal

A Russian S-400 air defense missile system on its transporter, erector, launcher vehicle on May 7, 2013, in Moscow. Photo: Vitaly V. Kuzmin

Even though Turkey has announced its intention to buy the S-400 missile system from Russia, the top US general in Europe told Congress on Thursday there is still “some time” to convince Turkish leaders there is a “better system” available.

“We’re in close discussion with Turkey with respect to their air defense measures and systems they could deploy,” Army Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti, head of US European Command and Supreme Allied Commander Europe, told members of the Senate Armed Services Committee on Thursday. “I don’t think that’s a finished dea?l yet.”

Czech Gen. Petr Pavel, the chairman of the NATO Military Committee, speaking to reporters Wednesday in Washington, said if acquired, the system will stand alone because it cannot be integrated with the NATO system.? Even that, though, can be a challenge for NATO assets operating in Turkey, both leaders emphasized.

“The S-400 is a highly sophisticated system, not only the missile, but also target acquisition radar and the radar that leads the missile to the target,” Pavel explained. “The value of the system is in the database.”

But that’s also the problem.

“You cannot sell the system as you sell a Kalashnikov, … which can be used the next day or next hour by an untrained individual. With a system like S-400 a team of Russian experts will have to come help install the system and make it align to feed the database,” said Pavel. “As it is hard to imagine that NATO experts would be sitting in Russia for a couple of months and feeding the database, it is hard to imagine that Russian experts will be sitting in Turkey and feeding a Russian system with NATO data. There is a big challenge.”