Turkey Wants to Use Its S-400 Missiles under ‘Crete Model’ as Greece Uses Russian S-300s, Defense Minister Says
Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar decalred on Tuesday that Turkey was going to start negotiations with NATO in order to be able to use the S-400 missile systems, which it purchased from Russia in a highly problematic deal that strained relations with the US and other NATO allies, under the “Crete model” in which Greece operates Russian-made S-300 rockets.
US – Turkish relations took a big hit in 2019 when Ankara received the advanced S-400 Russian air defense system, a deal which had been in the making and under criticism by Turkey’s NATO allies since 2017.
The S-400 purchase from Russia led the US remove Turkey from its development program for the F-35 Lightning II fighter jets. The US worried that Russia could use the S-400 missile system to secretly obtain classified information on the Lockheed Martin F-35 jets.
Turkey will open discussions for the “Crete model” regarding the use of the S-400 missile system, Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar announced on Tuesday talking to reporters in Ankara.
“We will open negotiations for a model used for the S-300s in Crete,” he said referring to Greece’s use of the Russian S-300 missile system despite being a NATO member, as cited by the Daily Sabah.
Akar further emphasized that, besides Greece, other NATO members in Eastern Europe which used to be part of the Warsaw pact led by the Soviet Union, also continued to use Soviet-made, respectively, Russian-made defense and weapon systems.
This is an argument with respect to the use of Russian weaponry by other NATO member states that top Turkish officials, including President Recept Erdogan, have been making since at least 2017.
Long-time NATO member Greece, however, did not acquire the S-300 missiles directly through a purchase from Russia. Instead, it received them from the Republic of Cyprus under a weapon exchange agreement following the 1997-1998 Cyprus missile crisis between the Greek-speaking Republic of Cyprus and Turkey.
However, Greece appears to have brokered the Cyprus’ purchase from Russia in the wake of the Imia / Kardak Island Crisis, a security escalation of a long-standing Aegean Sea island dispute between Athens and Ankara in 1995-1996.
In 1997-1998 deal, the Republic of Cyprus (the Greek-speaking part of the island, now an EU member) bought the Russian systems. However, it faced Turkey’s overwhelming reaction as it was to install them. Tensions were defused when Greece, an already well-armed NATO member and a close ally of the Republic of Cyprus, stepped in, assumed the Russian-made S-300 from Nicosia exchanging them for other weapon systems, and set them up on its island of Crete in the Mediterranean.
This factual setup in which NATO member Greece has been operating Russian missiles, albeit without actually having purchased them, has been referred to in Turkey as the “Crete” model.
Arguments with respect to the use of Russian, or Soviet-made weapons by former communist countries in Eastern Europe largely disregard the fact that during the Cold War those countries’ militaries were fully armed with Soviet weapons under the Warsaw Pact, NATO’s original enemy.
In its report on Turkey’s decision to start NATO discussions to be able to use the Russian-made S-400 missiles under the “Crete model”, the Daily Sabah points out that another Russian/Soviet missile defense system has sold to 20 countries, including NATO member countries such as Bulgaria, Greece, and Slovakia.
The fact of the matter, however, is that Bulgaria and Slovakia received it during the Warsaw Pact years when their militaries were subservient to the Soviet military, while Greece’s system was actually sold to the Republic of Cyprus, not a NATO member, even if Greece itself might have taken part in the sales negotiations.
It is noted that the S-300 system developed by the Soviet Union in 1978 is designed to defend against short- and medium-range air attacks and is considered one of the world’s most powerful air defense systems.
The Daily Sabah notes that Greece signed new agreements with Russia in 1999 and 2004 to purchase TOR-M1 and OSA-AKM (SA-8B) medium- and low-altitude air defense systems, which are now an integrated part of the air defense system of Greece and have also been deployed by the Republic of Cyprus.
It also reminds that the US and NATO have argued that Turkey should find alternatives to the S-400s.
“What matters for NATO is interoperability and the importance of integrating air and missile defense, and that cannot be the case with a Russian system S-400,” NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said in October 2020.
Turkish officials have also argued that America’s refusal to sell Turkey its Patriot missile systems has led the latter to buy the S-400 missiles from Russia.
In December 2020, the United States, back then under the Trump Administration, imposed sanctions on Turkey for the latter’s S-400 missile deal with Russia.
Ivan Dikov, the founder of HeartlandHinterland.com, is the author of the book “Got Nukes, Mr. Dictator? You Hold on to Them!“, among other books.