Analysis & Opinions - Wall Street Journal

Turkey’s Russian Missiles Could Defend Ukraine

| Mar. 17, 2022

A way to solve the dispute between Washington and Ankara and do poetic justice in the process.

Ukraine needs antiaircraft weapons, and Turkey has one it should get rid of—a Russian-made S-400 system it bought four years ago that triggered an enormous backlash from the U.S., which stopped selling F-35 fighter jets to Ankara in response.

How about a triple play? The U.S. helps Turkey send its S-400 to Ukraine to defend against Russian warplanes, offers the Turks a nice new American replacement, and gets F-35 shipments back on track. This would also help repair the relationship between the U.S. and Turkey in the face of Russian aggression.

Ukraine’s desperate struggle to repel Russia’s invasion depends on denying Russia air dominance. While Ukraine has preserved some air-defense capability, it lacks the means to hold off Russian air power indefinitely. Once Russia rules the Ukrainian skies, Ukrainian ground forces will be exceedingly vulnerable, as will supply lines of arms and aid from the West.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has begged the West for more aircraft and air defense. The onset of Russian air attacks on military airfields and training sites in western Ukraine, along with Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov’s warning that Western aid shipments are “legitimate targets,” demonstrates that Ukraine requires better long-range, high-altitude air defenses. Pentagon spokesman John Kirby recently noted that Ukraine needs new ground-based air-defense systems more than it needs Polish MiG-29s, the deal for which was scuttled after the Pentagon said it didn’t consider the deal “tenable.”

Ukraine has limited stocks of Soviet-era S-300 mobile missile systems. These weapons are effective but dated, and Ukraine has had to use them judiciously. Within the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, Bulgaria, Greece and Slovakia have S-300s, which could be transferred relatively quickly. Thomas Warrick at the Atlantic Council has suggested that the U.S. include S-300s as part of a lend-lease package for Ukraine, and NATO is reportedly exploring this idea.

For more information on this publication: Belfer Communications Office
For Academic Citation: Kolbe, Paul.“Turkey’s Russian Missiles Could Defend Ukraine.” Wall Street Journal, March 17, 2022.