RUSSIAN PRESIDENT Vladimir Putin meets with Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan..
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Turkey is seeking to take delivery of the S-400 missile defense system, even as US opposition grows in Congress. Russia’s state news agency TASS said that discussions were ongoing for the “time frame” of when the missiles and the system would be delivered. Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu has been in contact regularly with Russia, speaking to his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov on Friday.
“The contract with Russia on the S-400s remains in force and these defensive systems will be delivered to Turkey. Now, talks on this issue are underway,” the Turkish foreign minister said.
“We are not going to sell S-400s to third countries. We do not need this, as we are acquiring them for our own needs,” Cavusoglu said, according to TASS.
The discussions date back to 2016 and continue to grow as Turkey becomes a closer ally of Russia and clashes with US policy in Syria.
The latest discussions appear to aim for a delivery date in May, but the process could take until October. Russia says that “the S-400 Triumf is the most advanced long-range air defense missile system, which went into service in Russia in 2007. It is designed to destroy aircraft, cruise and ballistic missiles – including medium-range missiles – and can also be used against ground installations. The S-400 can engage targets at a distance of 400 km. and an altitude of up to 30 km.”
On March 28, a press release from Senator James Lankford’s office noted that he and several other senators had introduced a bill to prohibit the transfer of the F-35 aircraft to Turkey, “until our government certifies that Turkey will not accept delivery of Russia’s S-400 air defense system.” Lankford, a Republican from Oklahoma, was joined by Jeanne Shaheen (D-New Hampshire), Thom Tillis (R-North Carolina), and Chris Van Hollen (D-Maryland), showing bi-partisan support.
“Turkey is expected to accept delivery of the F-35 as early as next fall,” Lankford’s office said. “Turkey is an important NATO ally and willing partner in addressing a number of US national security priorities,” he continued. “It’s concerning that Turkey would seek close defense cooperation with Russia, whose authoritarian ruler seeks to undermine NATO and US interests at every turn. That’s why I am glad to partner with senators Shaheen, Van Hollen and Tillis to introduce this bipartisan bill that sends a clear message to the Turkish government that it cannot have sensitive, state-of-the-art American military technology and Russian military technology.”
The senators are concerned that Russia, an adversary of the US, is now becoming a Turkish ally. “The prospect of Russia having access to US aircraft and technology in a NATO country, Turkey, is a serious national and global security risk,” said Shaheen. “Turkey is a critical ally, but until President Erdogan forgoes his perplexing efforts to acquire the S-400 air defense system, not a single F-35 aircraft should be delivered to Turkey. This bill makes it clear that NATO’s integrity, interoperability and security is a top foreign policy concern across all branches of the US government. As such, this bipartisan bill will help ensure the safety and security of the United States and our transatlantic community.”
The ongoing issue of the S-400 transfer and the F-35 does not touch upon another issue. Turkey also wants the US Patriot missile system: a bizarre choice since having the S-400 and the Patriots would appear to be missile-defense redundancy. However, Turkey’s real goal here is simply to acquire the systems as part of its growing alliance with Russia, not necessarily because it needs the S-400. The S-400 is a symbol and, for the US and NATO, a major concern.
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