ANKARA (Bloomberg) — Turkey is considering deploying a Russian missile-defense system along the country’s southern coast, near where its warships are accompanying vessels exploring for energy, according to four people with knowledge of the deliberations.
The long-range S-400 battery, which might be delivered in weeks, would dramatically enhance Turkey’s military capabilities in the Eastern Mediterranean, where it’s embroiled in a spat with European Union member Cyprus over offshore gas exploration, the people said on condition of anonymity as the issue is sensitive.
The U.S. has threatened to sanction Ankara if it goes ahead with the missile deal, concerned that adding Russian hardware to NATO-member Turkey’s military could enable Moscow to gather critical military intelligence. It has also warned that Turkish ambitions to begin offshore drilling operations in an area claimed by Cyprus as its exclusive economic zone “risks raising tensions in the region.”
The S-400, also known within NATO as the SA-21 Growler, has advanced radars and is designed to defend airspace against warplanes used by countries in the western military alliance. Chief among U.S. concerns is that the Russian system could be used to collect data on the F-35 fighter jet’s stealth capabilities.
Turkey has refused to scrap its deal with Moscow and deploying S-400s on the Mediterranean could alarm other countries operating F-35s in the region, including the UK and Israel.
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