Second batch of Russian missiles arrive in Turkey
The second load of Russian S-400 missiles to Turkey has been delivered with the air-defence system expected to become operational in April.
Turkish military personnel are being trained to use the Russian equipment, which has a range of 400km, the Turkish defence ministry said.
The first S-400 equipment was delivered to Ankara in July, despite warnings about possible US sanctions over the purchase.
Last week, US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Washington was considering sanctions on Turkey.
The US says the S-400 is not compatible with Nato defences and poses a threat to its new F-35 stealth fighter jets, which Turkey is now prevented from buying.
After the delivery of the first battery, U.S. Secretary of State Michael Pompeo called on Turkey not to make the S-400s “operational” as Donald Trump held off on implementing new sanctions.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told the media that US warnings would be ignored.
“They told us ‘don’t activate them and we can sort this out’ but we told them that we didn’t buy these systems as a prop,” Cavusoglu told CNN Turk. He said Turkey would consider buying the US Patriot missile-defence systems as well.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said last week that he would discuss buying the Patriot with Trump this month.
Erdogan told Reuters he planned to address the issues surrounding the S-400 and F-35 directly with Trump at the United Nations General Assembly this month. He said the personal bond with the fellow populist could overcome the disagreement over the S-400.
The dispute over the Russian defence system has brought Turkey’s membership of Nato into question.
In July, the US blocked Turkey from its F-35 programme after the Russian missiles began arriving. Washington says the Russian system can be used to probe the new US jet and could compromise the stealth capabilities of the fifth-generation fighter. Both systems are being deployed in Syria.
Erdogan suggested last month that he might buy Russian SU-35 and SU-57 stealth fighter jets rather than the F-35s.
An SU-57 has landed in Turkey for the Technofest 2019 festival this week in Istanbul, according to Kremlin mouthpiece Tass.
Trump has said Turkey was treated unfairly in its requests to buy the Patriot, blaming the “mess” on the former president, Barack Obama.
F-35. Picture credit: US Air Force