Turkey urges the new U.S. administration to engage in dialogue and reconsider its decision to impose sanctions on its NATO ally in the Middle East for purchasing Russian S-400 surface-to-air missile systems (SAMs). The proposal comes despite Washington having already made it clear to Ankara that sanctions cannot be waived unless the Turkish authorities “get rid” of the Russian defensive system, the Associated Press reports today, January 14.
Speaking to reporters late on the evening of January 13, Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar did not directly answer the question of whether Ankara would consider giving up the Russian S-400 amid U.S. pressure. The Turkish minister of defense said only relatively evasively that he hoped that a solution could be found based on “common sense”.
Along with this, Akar pointed out that the negotiations with Russia concerning the purchase of the second batch of S-400 are continuing.
The defense minister reiterated Turkey’s call for dialogue with the U.S. to break the stalemate on the issue.
“We are saying: let’s not destroy our relations. like this. Let’s sit down, talk, and find a solution,” Akar said.
According to him, Turkey had no choice but to buy Russian long-range SAMs after none of its NATO allies offered better terms.
Asked whether Turkey considers buying Russian-made aircraft after the country’s exclusion from the fifth-generation fighter program, Akar stressed that Turkey wants to “return to the F-35 program” and also develop its own national fighter program and modernize its fleet of combat aircraft, the most modern machines in which it currently operates are F-16 multirole fighters.
Since the beginning of the last year, Washington has been demanding from Ankara to drop its plans to deploy Russian SAMs, pointing out that it would put an end to Turkey’s participation in the F-35 program and offering its NATO ally an “alternative” in the form of deliveries of American Patriot anti-missile systems. After Turkey’s expulsion from the F-35 program, the Pentagon announced the purchase of eight F-35A Lightning II fighters, which were originally intended for Ankara. In all, the Turkish side expressed a desire to buy 100 latest combat vehicles. The United States and its European NATO allies fear that the radars on the S-400 could detect and track the F-35s, making them less stealthy for Russian systems in the future.
After the purchase of the S-400, Turkey’s military and political leadership have shown interest in buying Russian multi-role fighters Su-35 or Su-57. The Su-35 is a Russian 4++ generation multirole fighter. The Su-57 is the latest fifth-generation fighter. Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan inspected this combat vehicle, first presented at the static display of the MAKS-2019 aerospace show in Zhukovsky on August 27, 2019.
Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar said earlier this year that now is not the time to clarify relations with the incoming U.S. administration of Joe Biden over Ankara’s purchase of S-400.
“It would be more useful to start the process (of settling bilateral differences first and then determine the method of solving the S-400 problem,” Hulusi Akar said in an interview with the Turkish newspaper Hürriyet published on Jan. 4.
As he emphasized then, the purchase of the Russian defense systems was not a choice for Turkey, but a necessity for the security of its 83 million citizens.
Recall that on December 14, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced that the U.S. imposes sanctions against the leadership of the Defense Security Board (SSB) of Turkey, including its director Ismail Demir, because of the purchase of Ankara SAMs S-400, which “contradict” its status as a NATO member. The sanctions prohibit the SSB from receiving loans from U.S. and international financial institutions, restrict export licenses for Turkish military products made with U.S.-manufactured components, and initiate a visa and financial asset freeze for senior SSB personnel.