WASHINGTON —Turkey will purchase a Patriot missile defense system from U.S. manufacturers, an 11th-hour switch from its very vocal threat to acquire Russian anti-missile items that would have caused cleavage in the NATO alliance.
It comes as news reports swirled that the U.S. will pull its troops from Syria.
The Pentagon announced Tuesday night that the $3.5 billion sale will ship 80 Patriot guidance-enhanced missiles and 60 other missiles to Ankara along with support mechanisms such as antenna mast groups, range and set programs, publications and technical documentation, training equipment, spare and repair parts, personnel training, communications equipment, radar sets, engagement control stations and launching stations, according to the Pentagon.
“Turkey is a member of and critical enabling platform for the Defeat-ISIS campaign and continues to be an essential element of our National Security Strategy and National Defense Strategy efforts to compete against great powers in both Europe and the Middle East,” the Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA), a part of the Pentagon, said in a press statement.
The purchase was approved by the State Department, a requirement of all overseas weapons sales.
“This proposed sale will contribute to the foreign policy and national security of the United States by improving the security of a key NATO Ally on the front lines of the fight against terrorism,” DSCA said in the news release.
For months Turkey had been saying it would purchase the Russian S-400 system. Such a purchase would likely have compromised overall NATO defense systems both in efficiency and permitting Russian hacking and secret stealing, among other dangers, Pentagon officials have said repeatedly. Additionally, the Russian system would not mesh with NATO systems.
Getting Turkey to change its mind was a priority of the Trump administration. It failed in a similar attempt to shift India away from purchasing a S-400 system in October and has been actively working to convince Saudi Arabia to buy the Patriot system and not the S-400.
Russia delivered a S-400 system to Syria in October.
President Trump and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan spoke by telephone on Friday, Erdogan told the Turkish media on Monday. He said the two leaders discussed the situation in northern Syria, where Turkey is planning more military action against Kurdish forces who are allied with Washington.
The Trump administration has also signaled that it is reconsidering its once stalwart refusal to discuss the possible extradition of Fethullah Gulen, a Muslim cleric living in Pennsylvania that Ankaras has accused of being a chief instigator of a 2016 coup attempt.