The United States (US) has yet again through its envoy to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) threatened Turkey if it goes ahead with the deal for the Russian air defense system.
“Everything indicates that Russia is going to deliver the system to Turkey and that will have consequences,” Kay Bailey Hutchison, the US ambassador to NATO, said during a visit for a meeting of NATO defense ministers in Brussels, Reuters reported on Tuesday.
The US statement follows remarks by Turkish President Recep Tayyip on Tuesday.
“We will hopefully start to receive the S-400 systems we purchased from Russia next month. Turkey is not a country that needs to seek permission or bow to pressures. The S-400s are directly linked to our sovereignty and we will not take a step back,” Erdogan told members of his Justice and Development Party (AKP) in parliament.
Washington and its NATO allies do not want the Russian defense system to be deployed in a NATO country, fearing the radar on S-400s would learn how to spot and track the F-35 fighter jets, which are built by an American firm, Lockheed Martin Corp., to avoid tracking by enemy radars and heat sensors.
Nevertheless, Turkey has seemed decisive in purchasing the Russian surface-to-air missile system, saying that it has a sovereign right to diversify its defense suppliers and that the S-400s poses no risk to either the F-35 program or the NATO systems as they would not be integrated into NATO operability.
Besides the retribution under the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act, a 2017 law known as CAATSA, Ankara was also threatened by Washington to be removed from its F-35 program. Turkey is both a buyer and a production partner of the fighter aircraft.
Ankara was an important partner in the production, however, the security concerns regarding Russia weighed favorably against it, according to Hutchison.
“There will be a disassociation with the F-35 system, we cannot have the F-35 affected or destabilized by having this Russian system in the alliance,” Hutchison told reporters.
Early this month the F-35 training for Turkish trainee pilots at Luke Air Force Base in Arizona were barred from using and accessing the aircraft.
The US moves could deal significant blows to Turkey’s ailing economy and its defense industry, as Washington is considering to not only impose sanctions on Turkish supplier firms for the F-35 fighter jet but also on other defense suppliers, according to a Reuters report last week, citing chief arms buyer Ellen Lord.
The US ambassador said they had tried to persuade Ankara against the deal, but Turkey had not seemed to withdraw from the conduct so far.
“It is not over until it is over, but so far Turkey has not appeared to retract from the sale. The consequences will occur, we do not feel there is a choice in that,” Hutchison said.
The leaders of the two NATO allies are expected to discuss the issue at the G20 summit in Japan later this week, the last chance to find a solution according to Reuter’s report that cites a senior NATO diplomat.
The issue is not expected to be formally raised during the NATO defense ministers’ meeting taking place on Wednesday and Thursday in Brussels, maybe only with some diplomacy in informal meetings, diplomats told Reuters.