Turkey received the first shipment of an advanced Russian air defence S-400 Triumf system on Friday, paving the way for a clash with Washington.
The first components of the system were flown by a Russian cargo aircraft to the Murted airbase near Ankara. This is the first delivery of the Russian system to a NATO member state. It remains unclear where Turkey plans to deploy the system.
The S-400 system carries a price tag of $2,5bn, which compares favourably to a US offer for the Patriot System that would cost $3,5bn. But the opportunity cost for Ankara is already much greater.
The Pentagon will halt the training of Turkish pilots on the US-led F-35 fighter jet programme by the end of July. In June, the US Senate moved to block the transfer of F-35 fighter jets to Turkey as it is feared that the radar of the S-400 air defence system will collect valuable intelligence about the F-35, undermining the stealth quality of the fourth generation combat aircraft.
The F-35 is about to enter service with the US military and more than six US allies. Turkey was supposed to have an important co-production role in the programme worth $12bn to Turkish manufacturing. Turkey now expects to be ousted from the programme altogether.
The next step for Washington will be to target the Turkish defense industry and the economy at large. The US law mandates the Trump administration to sanction any country that makes a significant deal with the Russian defence industry. By law, these measures will have to include economic sanctions, revocation of visas, and the prohibition of all US military procurement.
On an operational level, the S-400 crisis is expected to have an immediate effect in Syria. For one, US forces in northeast Syria are likely to stay indefinitely, limiting the scope for Turkish military operations against YPG forces.
The prospect of US sanctions contributed to the Turkish Lira sliding by 1.4% against the dollar on Friday. The S-400 controversy comes as the President of Turkey fired the Governor of the Bank of Turkey, Murat Cetinkaya, as President Erdogan challenges the notion of an independent monetary policy. Credit rating agency Fitch downgraded Turkey’s sovereign debt by on Friday to BB- with a negative outlook. This follows in the footsteps of Moody’s, which lowered its credit rating to B1 in June, and Standard & Poor’s rating of B+.