Some US officials believe Turkey bought the Russian 400 systems after the attempted coup in Turkey three years ago, Reuters reported.
Although they admit that the deterioration of US relations with Turkey in recent years and Russia's growing influence on Ankara may also have helped Turkey lean towards purchasing the S-400s, three US officials and a defense system source told Reuters about another working theory that got distribution in the Trump administration.
According to these officials, one reason Erdogan may have chosen to buy from Russia rather than from a fellow NATO member is that he might be wary of his air force, which played a major role in the coup attempt on July 15, 2016.
Experts believe that the S-400, which Turkey will better repel any attacks on the Turkish government with its aircraft, than the American Patriot system.
Raytheon Co’s (RTN.N)’s Patriot missiles, which have been on offer to Turkey, would have safeguards to help avoid “friendly fire” against other NATO warplanes, such as the Turkish air force jets.
“You have to ask yourself: Why would Erdogan really want a Russian system?” one of the U.S. officials asked. “He doesn’t trust his air force.”
Two other US officials and a defense source put forward the same theory about the possible motivation of the Turkish leader.
“There’s some talk that he wants the (Russian) system just to protect himself. He doesn’t want a NATO-integrated system,” one of the officials said.
A senior Turkish official denied that concerns about the military were a motivating factor in the decision.
“Turkey is not worried about another coup attempt and it trusts its own army and pilots,” he said when asked about the U.S. speculation.
Another Turkish official said that Ankara always wanted to buy a Patriot, but was forced to turn to Russia.
Erdogan himself said that Turkey bought S-400 because Russia had a better deal with it, and Turkish officials demanded tough conditions for the US regarding the pricing of Patriot, joint production and transfer of technologies.
President Donald Trump publicly defended Erdogan, saying that Ankara chose the Russian system only because Trump's predecessor, Barack Obama, could not offer him a viable alternative to the United States.
But the Turkish purchase has upset Washington and could drive a wedge into the heart of NATO.
The Pentagon, which sees the S-400 as a threat to the most modern stealth fighter jet in its arsenal, the F-35, announced on Wednesday that the United States would drop plans to sell the jet to Turkey.