EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: The US administration has offered to sell $3.5 billion worth of Patriot missiles to Turkey, apparently in an effort to stop Ankara from going ahead with a planned S-400 deal with Moscow. The Turks will probably shrug off the offer (after making sure it’s not an offer they can’t refuse). For reasons largely unrelated to its military requirements, Ankara has no intention of scrapping the S-400 deal and risking its geostrategic bonds with Moscow.
When Turkey’s powerful generals decided their country needed an indigenous long-range air and anti-missile defense system, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was a freshly elected mayor of Istanbul; Saddam Hussein was enjoying his Baghdad palace; Microsoft was releasing Windows 95, and Israeli PM Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated at a peace rally in Tel Aviv. Nearly a quarter century later, Turkey is still a few years away from building its first long-range defense architecture, and it will not be an indigenous system.
Turkey’s missile defense journey has taken several bizarre turns. In 2013, the country decided to become the first NATO ally to deploy a Chinese-made air defense system on its soil.* It later gave up the idea. In December 2017, Ankara unveiled a deal with Moscow for the acquisition of the Russian-made S-400 system, volunteering to become the first NATO country to deploy it. These days, Turkey is toying with the idea of becoming the first NATO country to deploy both the US Patriot system and the Russian S-400 system on its soil.