The Turkish government is currently assessing the probability of delaying the delivery of the S-400 Russian missile defense system after a request from the US to delay taking delivery, Reuters reported on Monday, citing a source familiar with the matter.
The source, reportedly a senior Turkish official, also told Reuters that Turkey is highly unlikely to give up on the purchase, which is scheduled for delivery in July. “We will buy the S-400s in July. Our position has not changed,” he said, adding that talks on the issue are continuing.
Bloomberg previously reported claims, allegedly by two people who are familiar with the proposal but who asked not to be identified because of the sensitivity of the issue, that Turkey was considering delaying the purchase of the Russian S-400 defense system until 2020 in order to ease tensions between Washington and Ankara.
According to Bloomberg’s sources, the Trump administration requested that Turkey postpone receiving the S-400 system batteries to buy time for the two allies, US and Turkey, to resolve the conflict between them that threatens increased sanctions on the latter’s already battered economy.
On May 1, Acting US Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan warned that the Pentagon will halt manufacturing support for the F-35 in Turkey if Ankara – a NATO member that participates in the production of F-35 fighter jets for use by members of the accord, and which is also planning to buy 100 of the jets – buys into the Russian missile defense system.
“If Turkey decides that the S-400 is a decision they want to go ahead with, then
we will have to move out of Turkey,” he said.
Following Shanahan’s warning, Turkish Vice President Fuat Oktay said that US concerns on the issue were not reasonable, again emphasizing that Turkey would not back down.
Officials from the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) have stated that the defense system deal with Moscow was made following Washington’s refusal to sell the US-made Patriot anti-missile system to Turkey.
The US then offered to sell Turkey the more expensive Patriot system at a discounted cost if Turkey dropped its plan to buy the S-400, but this offer expired at the end of March.
Early in April, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu stated that Turkey’s purchase of the Russian missile defense system was a “done deal” and would not be canceled.
Cavusoglu said that they have received a new offer for the Patriot system from the US, but that even though Turkey would like to buy them, the country would not back out of its deal with Russia.
Cavusoglu also underlined that Turkey might obtain even more military equipment from Russia, including an alternative to the F-35 if Washington removes Ankara from the program.
Turkey also recently denied claims of the German Bild daily that the S-400 missile defense system deal with Russia seemed to be off in fear of US sanctions. Addressing the German Bild, Fahrettin Altun, Communications Director of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, said in a tweet: “Your sources are mistaken. Take it from me: The S-400 procurement is a done deal.”
In December 2017, Russia and Turkey finalized an agreement on the delivery of the S-400 defense system.
Several NATO member states, notably the US, have criticized Turkey for the S-400 purchase plans, arguing it will threaten NATO’s interoperability and cause a potential security risk, as Russian experts would allegedly be able to get secret information related to the F-35 technology.
The S-400, which has previously been sold only to China and India, is an advanced Russian missile system designed to detect, track, and destroy planes, drones, or missiles as far as 402 kilometers away.
Among the 14 countries that are participating in the F-35 program, Turkey is the only NATO member to rely on Russian technology and therefore faces possible expulsion from the program.