A Kremlin spokesman stated on Friday that Russia’s delivery to Turkey of its advanced S-400 air defense missile system would proceed on schedule. The Turkish media reported that the weapon system would be loaded Sunday onto Russian cargo planes, presumably arriving that day or the next.
Both the Pentagon and State Department have reiterated their opposition to Turkey’s acquisition of the S-400 and described the penalties that will ensue.
Their position runs counter to the statement of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan following his meeting with US President Donald Trump on the sidelines of the G-20 summit in Japan last week.
Following their June 29 summit, Erdogan told reporters that Trump had promised him that the US would not impose sanctions on his country for buying the Russian equipment.
Trump pledged “no such thing will happen,” Erdogan said. “It is out of the question between two strategic partners. I think it should not happen.”
For his part, Trump spoke sympathetically about Turkey’s situation. He stated that Erdogan had been treated “unfairly” and blamed his predecessor, Barack Obama, for not being willing to sell the US air defense system to Turkey. However, Trump did not speak to the consequences of Ankara acquiring the S-400. Rather, he said the situation was “a mess,” adding “It’s a complicated deal. We’re working on it. We’ll see what we can do.”
However, no news of a compromise or mutual agreement on the issue between Washington and Ankara has emerged in the week since.
In addition to the prospect of sanctions for purchasing Russian military equipment, Turkish plans to acquire the F-35, America’s latest fighter jet, is also an issue. Ankara has invested over $1 billion in the program, but now faces being frozen out of it.
The S-400 was built to defeat the F-35, US officials explain. If the S-400 and F-35 operate in the same country, the S-400 could well acquire crucial information about the F-35 to enhance its ability to shoot down the plane.
Thus, if Turkey acquires the S-400, the Pentagon remains resolutely opposed to its acquisition of the F-35.
“Turkey’s purchase of the Russian S-400 air and missile defense system remains incompatible with the F-35 program,” Lt. Col. Mike Andrews, a Pentagon spokesman, told Kurdistan 24 on Friday.
“Turkey will not be permitted to have both systems,” Andrews continued. Despite the Russian statement and Turkish media reports about the imminent delivery of the S-400, the “Department remains hopeful that Turkey will change course,” he said. But “if Turkey accepts delivery of the S-400,” steps to disengage Turkey from the F-35 program “will be greatly accelerated.”
The State Department expressed a similar view, adding the prospect of economic sanctions.
The US “has consistently and clearly stated that Turkey will face very real and negative consequences, if it proceeds with its S-400 acquisition,” a State Department spokesperson told Kurdistan 24 on Friday.
That includes “suspension of procurement and industrial participation in the F-35 program,” the State Department continued. Turkish companies were slated to make 937 parts for the fighter jet, including the landing gear and a large portion of its center fuselage. But that work would be lost, with the acquisition of the S-400.
In addition, the State Department warned that Turkey risks “exposure to sanctions under the Countering America’s Adversaries through Sanctions Act (CAATSA.)”
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R., South Carolina), a senior member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, was in Turkey last Sunday, when he was interviewed on CBS News.
Asked about Erdogan’s claim that Trump had assured him that Turkey would not face sanctions for the S-400, Graham replied, “I’m in Turkey and it’s being reported in the Turkish media that President Erdogan is claiming that President Trump, in their discussions, told Turkey that if you activate the S-400, we’ll find a way around sanctions.”
“I doubt if that conversation occurred. It’s impossible under our law,” Graham said. “If Turkey activates the S-400 missile battery” they purchased from Russia, “sanctions would be required under law.”
In addition, Turkey would loose the F-35. Congress just “passed legislation banning the sale of the F-35 to Turkey, if they activate the Russian S-400 missile battery,” he explained.
“There’s no way we’re going to transfer to Turkey the F-35 technology and let them buy a Russian missile battery at the same time. It would compromise our platform,” Graham affirmed.