Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said that Turkey is considering buying a second Russian missile system, despite the United States’ strong objections and threats of further sanctions on the NATO member.
In an interview with American broadcaster CBS News, Erdogan said that Turkey was independent in making decisions concerning its defence systems.
Talking to CBS show “Face the Nation with Margaret Brennan”, Erdogan said, “In the future, nobody will be able to interfere in terms of what kind of defence systems we acquire, from which country at what level.”
Erdogan said that Turkey was not given the option to buy American-made Patriot missiles. He said that the US had not delivered F-35 stealth jets despite receiving a payment of $1.4bn either.
In response to the threat of more US sanctions, if Turkey moved to buy more S-400s, Erdogan held his ground. “Of course, of course, yes,” he said.
The US is against the use of Russian systems within NATO, claiming that it poses a threat to its F-35s. Meanwhile, Turkey argues that the S-400s do not pose any risk as they can be used independently without being integrated into NATO systems.
Earlier in July 2019, Turkey was officially kicked out of the F-35 programme and the US sanctioned its defence officials after Ankara bought the Russian-made S-400 missile defence system. Then in 2020, the US moved to sanction Turkey under a 2017 law that is primarily designed to counter Russian influence. It was the first time that the US used Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) to reprimand an American ally.
As Russia and Turkey continue to discuss the delivery of a second batch, the US has repeatedly threatened to trigger new sanctions.
In response to a question about Erdogan’s comments, a State Department spokesperson said, “We urge Turkey at every level and opportunity not to retain the S-400 system and to refrain from purchasing any additional Russian military equipment”
Referring to the possible invocation of the 2017 Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act, the spokesperson said, “We continue to make clear to Turkey that any significant new Russian arms purchases would risk triggering CAATSA 231 sanctions separate from and in addition to those imposed in December 2020.”
The spokesperson also said the United States regards Turkey as an ally and friend and seeks ways to strengthen their partnership “even when we disagree”.
Earlier, before Erdogan left for the US, he told journalists that relations with US President Joe Biden had not been off to a good start, despite enjoying good working relationships with the previous US leaders during his 19 years as Turkey’s leader.
Turkey’s state-run Anadolu news agency quoted Erdogan as saying, “I cannot honestly say that there is a healthy process in Turkish-American relations.”
Erdogan also told Turkish media Turkey would buy new missile defence systems if needed before adding that it was already developing its own.