NATO secretary general discuss Russian arms purchases with Turkish defence officials

NATO secretary general discuss Russian arms purchases with Turkish defence officials

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg will visit Turkey today, where he will hold meetings in Ankara with senior officials, including Turkish

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Photo: Reuters

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg will visit Turkey today, where he will hold meetings in Ankara with senior officials, including Turkish Defence Minister Hulusi Akar.

The visit comes as US opposition to Turkey’s pending purchase of Russian S-400 missiles intensified last month. Vice-president Mike Pence warned Turkey that going ahead with the missile purchase—due in July—is an anti-NATO choice. Specifically, the missiles threaten the attacking capabilities of F-35 fighter-jets which many NATO countries are in the process of acquiring.

NATO has taken a largely neutral stance on the missile purchase, with Stoltenberg stating each member-state has a right to determine its own military purchases but wishes for the US-Turkey spat to be resolved amicably.

Expect Stoltenberg to maintain that position in Ankara today. Turkey plays a significant strategic role for NATO, bordering various unstable countries, such as Syria and Iraq. It also provides NATO with a Black Sea military presence, bordering Russian waters.

The test of this neutrality will come in July when Turkey accepts the missiles. The US is expected to cut Turkey from the F-35 programme and downgrade bilateral defence relationships. NATO will not oppose that. However, Brussels is likely to baulk at any stronger action—like cutting Turkey from NATO—unless Ankara-Moscow relations become a direct security threat to the alliance.

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