NATO's Mounting Opposition to Turkey’s Chinese Missile System
Image Credit: flickr/ Latvian Foreign Ministry

NATO's Mounting Opposition to Turkey’s Chinese Missile System


NATO member states are strongly opposed to Turkey’s decision to purchase a Chinese-built missile defense system, with one NATO official calling the missile system a “virus,” according to a report in the Turkish newspaper, the Hurriyet Daily News.

“NATO’s own command and control system that ‘mashes’ input from allied networks is far more important than a Chinese air defense system in Turkey,” an unnamed defense attaché from a NATO member state was quoted as saying by Hurriyet Daily News. “There is no place for China within this critical system. We would not wish to see a virus in a complex system.”

An unnamed NATO ambassador in Ankara, Turkey’s capital city was even blunter, telling Hurriyet: “I have no idea why the Turks do not see the simple fact that the alliance’s security threat perception in the next 20 years is based on China. Air and missile defense will be the top defense issue in the foreseeable future, with China being under the magnifier.”

As previously reported, Turkey is likely to purchase the Chinese-built air and missile defense system over competitors from the U.S., EU and Russia. Although many worried that this was a signal that Turkey is “abandoning” the West for China, Aaron Stein, the nonproliferation program manager at the Istanbul-based Center for Economics and Foreign Policy Studies, told The Diplomat that Turkey’s main rationale for purchasing the Chinese system was Beijing’s willingness to co-produce the systems and transfer technology. Other reports suggest that cost was also a crucial factor in Turkey’s decision.

The Hurriyet article suggests that the main concern among NATO officials with Anakara’s purchase of the HQ-9 missile system is the lack of interoperability. In particular, the NATO officials interviewed expressed concern about integrating the HQ-9 with NATO’s Identify Friend or Foe (IFF) system, which operates on “Mode 5,” a code that enables the system to distinguish between friendly and adversary aircraft.

An unnamed U.S. defense official was quoted in the article as saying: “To make the Chinese system NATO-operable, the Turks would require Mode 5 codes and I see no reason why the [U.S.] National Security Agency should give a nod to this crazy idea.”

This is not the first time U.S. or NATO officials have expressed concern with Turkey’s decision to go with the Chinese missile defense system. Last week, for instance, NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen told Turkey that the system must be compatible with other NATO systems.

“What is important for us is that the system acquired by the individual country … must be able to work and operate with the systems in other countries. I expect that Turkey will also comply with that,” Reuters quoted Rasmussen as saying.

The U.S. Ambassador to Turkey, Francis J. Ricciardone, similarly stated, “This is not a NATO system. China is not a member of NATO. This is one of the issues,” the U.S. has with the decision.

Meanwhile, State Department spokeswomen, Jen Psaki, expressed concerns with the fact that the Chinese company involved in the deal has repeatedly been sanctioned by the U.S. for its deals with countries like Iran, Pakistan and North Korea.

“The main concern here was that the Turkish government was having contract discussions with a U.S.-sanctioned company for a missile defense system that was not operable with NATO systems,” Psaki said.

Turkish officials have said that the deal is not final while largely dismissing all stated concerns.

Turkish Defense Minister İsmet Yilmaz has previously said that purchasing the Chinese missile defense system will not harm ties with the U.S. The Hurriyet article quoted Yilmaz as saying that he sees no problems with integrating the system.

January 16, 2014 at 07:55

Both western and eastern defense industries introduced their systems. West had Patriot system which is quite older than S-300 Chinese editions also Chinese manufacturer agreed to share technological knowledge about high-altitude defense systems and accepted Turkey’s conditions. Unlike Chinese, NATO tried to dictate about Patriot system and they’ll be under NATO control and no licence will be shared. Turkey was looking for a step stone for this system and China provided that.

November 1, 2013 at 04:33

Turkey couldn't care less what Obama and the US says. Again it is the US as usual at it's hypocritical best. Why would they dictate and threaten someone on what or who Turkey can purchase from? What next tell them they have to buy diapers from US made manufacturers only?

October 20, 2013 at 11:54

If no huge bribe, how can Turkey buy Chinese missile defence system?

October 17, 2013 at 22:03

Obama can't expect full accompany and support while he is emptying and undermining his allies in the region against syria and iran.This is may be one of the consequences but obama will see more and much important consequences in the future.

October 17, 2013 at 20:28

I hate to break it to you but Turkey and China signed the deal yesterday check the media outlets as you are very behind.

Furthermore, the Turkish Government is bound by the Turkish Constitution and Turkish procurement laws which stipulate that preference must be given to tenderers who agree to full technology transfer or co-production arrangements. No tenderer in the T-LORAMID tender could even come close to matching China's offer. China agreed to full technology transfer and production in Turkey. Turkey will provide the CI4, IFF and radar guidance systems. So I really don't know why NATO is huffing and puffing. The way NATO is going they will loose control of the Turkish Straights and Mediteranean to the Chinese and Russians.

October 17, 2013 at 18:48

NATO has been too passive towards Egypt and Syria conflicts and It did not do anything in favor of Turkey on these so it's reasonable that Turkey has decided on a deal with China. If Nato can not see potential of Turkey yet, that's it's problem not Turkey's.

October 17, 2013 at 13:07

"The West will never accept Turkey as one of it's own."

Ditch NATO, EU and join SCO and Eurasian Union. It's time for Turkey to wake up.

October 17, 2013 at 13:01

"Maybe Turkey can then better address mainland China for killing their muslim brothers in Xinjiang as a SCO member."

Then why is Turkey allied with U.S? U.S. killed more muslims.

The Ghost of Tonuquq
October 17, 2013 at 12:16

NATO's pressure to put in the missle defense system in Turkey against Iran was one of the triggers leading to the colapse of Davoutoglu's "Zero Problems" Policy. Let's see what happens now. My prediction? The Chinese HQ-9 deal will die before the ink dries on the agreement. Like the F-4 flown into Syria, this deal is 50% a test, and 50% a shrewd negotion tactic. It may be very smart or very dumb. Time will tell.

"Follow the water and the grass."

October 16, 2013 at 21:14

Doesn't matter what the 50 cent army rants, as it's NATO that funded over half of Turkey's radar sites, and provides the satellites that provide the security network in Turkey. If NATO decides they don't want the HQ-9, then they don't have to provide the 'source codes' to make it all happen, as NATO ownes these installations……………..not Turkey!

If Turkey wants to also join a useless organization like the SCO, then more power to them as well. Maybe Turkey can then better address mainland China for killing their muslim brothers in Xinjiang as a SCO member. Also, Uzbekistan of the SCO doesn't have any Chinese bases in the country that I'm aware of, but Uzbekistan does have each a US & Indian base in the country. Too me, the SCO isn't and never was about a Chinese attempt to counter NATO, but just a group of nations concerned about border security with China.

With the way the security forces in China are working overtime in abusing the citizens of Tibet, Xinjiang, and Inner Mongolia, the Chinese might as well ask Mongolia to join the SCO.

Thomas Perry
October 16, 2013 at 20:28

The USA only exports WMD these days, to stay afloat. Losing a big deal ike this with the Turks is unthinkable and unprecedented! What else could it export, if not weapons???? Export of civilian jet liners has taken a hit and the Dreamliner is losing market shares to Airbus. And it l;ook like, the day of printing monies out of thin air is about to come to an end in a terrible way. It is not looking good for the world. The news around is that Homeland Security is buying tons of ammo and even heavy tanks, to prepare for the final eventuality when mass protests broke out and their civilians go on the rampage, riots and looting….the day  when the USA  in its crediit is broke and could no longer honors its debt payment. Scary stuff but also stupidity in itself…..Question, Why would the rest of the world allow itself to be taken hostage by a bankrupted nation and continue to have full faith in its credibility??????

October 16, 2013 at 19:25

When Greece purchases S-300 ABM's from Russia they are not a concern for NATO, but when Turkey co-produces an ABM system based on the HQ-9 with China all hell breaks out. Hypocracy, double standards and lack of transparency perhaps? What happend to a free market economy? What happend to Turkey's soverignty? I didn't know we ceded it to NATO upon our membership in that "Alliance". An alliance which invoked Article 5 of the Washington Treaty to protect the US after the September 11 bombings but failed to invoke Article 5 when Istanbul and Ankara was bombed by PKK terrorists. Time for Turkey to look elsewhere. China is a very good start. The West will never accept Turkey as one of it's own. 

October 16, 2013 at 16:39

The requirement for Turkey was to pay the allied (American) premium on the weapon system.  China offered a better deal, along with technology transfer, something unthinkable to private weapon companies.

If NATO officials really cared about Turkey in the alliance, they should of brokered a better deal between the parties or even better, threaten sanctions if Turkey does not only source expensive deals with their preferred manufacturers.

October 16, 2013 at 15:13

Seems like NATO is a very restrictive organisation that is trying to split off Turkey from China. Turkey has no freedom of manoeuver as long as it is bound up with NATO. I think it's better for Turkey to join SCO and Eurasian Union.

October 16, 2013 at 15:06

In real estate terminology- it is called a counter-offer with the new terms: $3b or lower, technology transfer, and co-production.

It is a buyer's market out there.

Share your thoughts

Your Name
Your Email
required, but not published
Your Comment

Sign up for our weekly newsletter
The Diplomat Brief