Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan isn’t bothered by threats from Washington that the NATO member state could be sanctioned as a result of buying Russian-made weaponry.
Speaking shortly after talks with U.S. President Donald Trump on the sidelines of the Group of 20 summit in Osaka last week, Erdogan told reporters “We have heard from him personally that this would not happen,” Reuters reported.
“We are strategic partners with the United States. As strategic partners, nobody has the right to meddle in Turkey’s sovereign rights. Everyone should know this.”
For months, officials in Washington have been urging Turkish officials to abandon plans to purchase the Russian air defense system and buy the American-made Patriot system instead. In June, the Trump administration was reportedly considering the imposition of three sanctions packages as a punishment for Turkey, a member of the western military alliance known as the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, better known as NATO. Officials in Ankara were also sent a letter warning that Turkey would be pulled out of the F-35 jet program if the S-400 deal goes through.
Erdogan's statement came just days after the new acting U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper expressed concern over the deal.
“Turkey has been a longstanding and trusted partner and ally for many, many years,” Golos Ameriki quoted Esper as saying at the meeting with his Turkish counterpart Hulusi Akar last week. “The pursuit of the S-400 undermines that.”
Turkish officials have repeatedly asserted that the purchase of $2.5 billion worth of units of the S-400 Triumf, also known as SA-21, or Glower, is a “done deal” and “there is no backtracking from that.”
The S-400 deal between Russia and Turkey has nevertheless continued to be a major concern for the United States. Some officials believe that Turkey cannot remain a NATO member and at the same time purchase the Russian S-400 missile defense system, which is said to be incompatible with NATO systems.
U.S. officials are concerned that the S-400 Triumf may compromise its F-35 jet planes, which Turkey also plans on buying. Turkey is a partner of the F-35 program and has contributed more than $1 billion to it thus far.
Meanwhile, some experts believe that President Trump will not have any other choice but impose sanctions on Turkey over its military deal with Russia, which violates the existing Countering America's Adversaries Through Sanctions Act, a 2017 Congressional bill penalizing entities doing business with Russia.
The Russian-made S-400 Triumf surface-to-air missile system is an anti-aircraft weapon system that can hit targets and travel distances between 40 km (25 mi) and 400 km (249 mi). Turkey is not the first country to express interest in the S-400. So far, Russia has multi-billion deals with China and Saudi Arabia, while Bahrain and Egypt have shown interest.