Publication: Monitor Volume: 4 Issue: 100

While Defense Ministry officials proudly demonstrated Russia’s newest attack helicopters last week to visiting Turkish General Staff chief Ismail Karaday, they also cautioned that Turkey, as a NATO member, would likely lean toward NATO models when buying new arms. They also noted that any major Turkish purchases would require the “unlikely” cancellation of the sale of Russian S-300 anti-aircraft missile systems to Cyprus. Karaday was shown the single-seat Ka-50 “Black Shark” helicopter and the two-seat Ka-52 “Alligator” gunship and said he was impressed with what he saw. The Kamov company has entered the Ka-50-2, a two-seat version of the Black Shark, in the competition to supply some 145 attack helicopters to Turkey. Their entry would have Israeli avionics and weapons integration and politics and the Cyprus deal aside is considered to be a strong contender for the Turkish order.

However, these two qualifications might be hurdles Kamov will not be able to overcome. At least in public, Karaday was very diplomatic about the Cypriot sale. He indicated that his government had not yet defined its official position on the deal, adding that the Turks also did not know Russia’s “exact official attitude” on the issue. Few doubt that Turkey will react very negatively should the missiles be delivered and significant arms exports to that country would be out of the question.

Opposition to any possible deal also came from the State Duma. Aleksei Mitrofanov, chairman of the geopolitics committee, warned that Turkish weapons will be aimed both at Russia and its allies. He issued a statement which said that there was no doubt Turkey would use any Russian-supplied “modern weaponry against our strategic allies in the Middle East.” Turkey in the past has had problems with its neighbors Iraq and Syria-both traditional customers for Russian arms. The new head of the arms export company Rosvooruzhenie, Yevgeny Ananev, indirectly supported this concern. In talking of regions where Russian arms sales might grow, he said that the “potential in Arab countries remains good,” adding that he was trying to restore relations that had been damaged by the company’s previous management. (Russian media, May 15-21)