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Turkey, the S-400 and the new arms sale geopolitics

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LONDON - Sometime next month, Russia may begin shipping its S-400 air defense system to Turkey. It is a move that divides NATO, may see the Turkish military kicked out of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter project, and demonstrates just how central yet divisive high-tech weapons exports have become.

Throughout the Cold War, weapons shipments from both East and West were vital for entrenching alliances and establishing spheres of interest. While some nations — particularly the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia — embraced cutting-edge U.S. technology, many others purchased Russian — hard-wearing, often cheaper equipment that came with wider Soviet diplomatic and economic support.

The world now is rather more complex. A growing number of countries, such as Turkey, Iraq and India, wish to hedge their bets and buy from both. That’s understandable — but changing technology brings further complications.

As the current U.S.-Turkey row shows all too clearly, mixing and matching the latest Russian and U.S. systems is something Washington does not take lightly. Last week, Turkish pilots found themselves pulled from flying F-35s in Arizona, an apparent indication of just how seriously the United States takes the issue. If it goes ahead with the purchase, Ankara may also face U.S. financial sanctions, inflicting further damage on an already fragile........

© The Japan Times