Erdogan brushes off US missile defence warning
Turkey’s deal to buy Russian S-400 missile-defence systems had “nothing to do” with the security of the US, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said in response to a warning of “grave consequences” from the Pentagon.
“It is very clear why Turkey has bought this air-defence system, under what conditions it has bought them and how it will be used,” Erdogan told a televised event in Diyarbakir.
“Everyone knows that this issue has nothing to do whatsoever with Nato, the F-35 (pictured) project and the security of the US.”
The strongman president said the real issue was with Turkey “taking actions on its own accord”, especially in Syria.
The US has raised questions over the Russian equipment’s compatibility with Nato’s established weapon systems.
Washington has said the S-400 sale was a Russian effort to disrupt Nato.
Trade between the supposed allies could suffer.
Donald Trump’s letter to Congress this month calling for the termination of preferential trade treatment for Turkey could end the duty-free benefits exports to the US since 1975.
General Curtis Scaparrotti, commander of US European Nato, recommended action if Turkey buys the Russian S-400 air-defence system. He told a congressional hearing: “My best military advice would be that we don’t follow through with the F-35, flying it or working with an ally that’s working with Russian systems, particularly air-defence systems.”
Ankara is also planning to purchase 100 F-35 fighter jets from the US, depending on congressional approval, and its pilots are training at Luke Air Force Base in Arizona.
Turkish employers also supply the F-35 programme with components, including airframe structures and assemblies and the centre fuselages.
But bilateral relations are increasingly fraying. US Senator Chris Van Hollen said: “The US government is unified in our position [and] losing patience” with Ankara.
There is a feeling that successive US administrations papered over Turkey’s constant transgressions and overvaluing its contributions as an ally. “The only point of consistency in US policy on Turkey has been wishful thinking,” said Michael Rubin of the American Enterprise Institute.
The Turkish media reported that Erdogan said the air-defence issue could be solved through logic and common sense.
After prolonged, unsuccessful efforts to purchase air-defence systems from the US, Ankara decided in 2017 to buy Russian S-400, the official Turkish media said.
The US F-35. Picture credit: Wikimedia