Journalist Sedat Ergin of the Turkish newspaper Hürriyet recently wrote that the delivery of the S-400 anti-aircraft missile systems coincided with the anniversary of the coup d’état on July 15, 2016, and that this was anything but a coincidence. He stressed that the S-400s arriving from Russia had even landed on the same runway where American F-16 fighters took off during the coup attempt, calling the decision an act of “historical cunning.”
Ergin commented on Turkish President Recep T. Erdogan’s speech on the anniversary of the coup, saying “in this situation, from the point of view of the president, the arrival of the S-400s is a response to the attempted coup d’état on July 15.”
“The decision to buy the S-400 anti-aircraft missiles from Russia led to a deterioration in relations between Ankara and Washington. If Turkish-American relations had sprouted on healthy soil, on a foundation of trust uneclipsed by the suspicions aroused on July 15, then Ankara would have refused to buy the S-400s. ”
The 2016 coup was headquartered at the Akinci Airbase. Members of the Gulenist terrorist group (FETÖ), Adil Öksüz and Kemal Batmaz, who played an important role in the coup, were part of the 143rd fleet based at Akıncı, where their F-16s were housed before taking off toward Ankara, eventually bombing and killing 44 policemen at the Golbasi police station.
After July 15, three squadrons were abolished and the status of the base was reduced from “high command” to “field control.”
Three years later, the four-kilometer runway of this same base has now become the landing and take-off area for the huge cargo planes carrying the S-400 air defense systems.
On the third anniversary of the coup, the change in the military aircraft using this base, as well as the nationality of their crews, is of paramount importance.
On Friday, July 12, the first AN-124 aircraft landed at the airbase, now restored to its original name, “Mürted.” In the following days, the delivery of S-400 equipment on cargo aircraft from Russia coincided with the commemoration ceremony for the coup attempt. The overlap here was not an accident. In President Recep T. Erdogan speeches, he indirectly revealed a connection between the coup attempt and the supply of S-400s.
Last Monday, he made speeches at the Ankara city police department and at the Istanbul International Airport, both of which focused on the arrival of the air defense supplies. At the opening ceremony of the newly built police station in Ankara, the same one which had been destroyed by the American F-16 fighters, Erdogan remembered the dead, and also touched on economics, security, defense industry and foreign policy:
“At the moment, we have begun purchasing S-400 components… ‘Do not buy them,’ they said, ‘you will not be able to put them anywhere,’ they said, ‘your choice is not correct,’ they said… And starting today, eight planes arrived and they have already begun to unload… Now the goal is to set up production together with Russia. We will do this, and go even further. ”
The president repeated the same thing at an evening event in Istanbul, adding: “We stood stubbornly, we did not fall. We are Turks, we keep our word and fulfill it.”
An article appeared in the New York Times in which it was reported that the events on July 15 and the day of delivery of equipment S-400 were part of a new emphasis on Turkish nationalism.
The fact that the US administration did not respond properly to the coup d’état on the night of July 15, and failed to declare support for the Turkish government following the attack, raised serious questions about Washington’s relationship with Ankara.
Sometime after the coup attempt, Erdogan made accusations against a few American generals saying that they had sided with the conspirators, and leveling open criticisms against the United States, arguing it was “obvious” the Americans had supported the coup.
The US government’s refusal to assist Turkey with the extradition of Fethullah Gülen and other members of the Gulenist terrorist group (FETÖ) only strengthened the belief of AKP members that America was behind the event. This conviction, combined with distrust over America’s support of the PKK in Syria, severely worsened relations between the countries.
The decision to buy the S-400s from Russia led to a swift deterioration in relations between Ankara and Washington, but it should be kept in mind that the reasons for the decision are deeply rooted and historical.