Nothing the US does will make Turkey abandon its deal with Moscow to purchase S-400 air defense systems, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said, as Washington keeps threatening Ankara with sanctions.
The purchase of the Russian-made weapons has long been a point of contention in relations between the two NATO allies. The US has repeatedly threatened Ankara with various punitive measures should they not abandon the deal. It has already canceled training for Turkish pilots learning to fly American F-35 fighter jets as well as threatened to kick Turkey out of the multi-billion-dollar fighter jet program altogether.
Turkey, however, has stood defiant of US pressure and vowed to retaliate against any US sanctions.
“No matter what sanctions decision, no matter which statement comes from the US, we have already bought the S-400,” Cavusoglu told journalists on Monday. The only question related to the deal still being discussed is when the air defense systems will be delivered to Turkey, he said.
The minister also said that Turkey cannot rely on NATO in its national defense and accused Ankara’s Western allies of leaving it all alone in its hour of need.
Turkey urgently needs air defense. We cannot say ‘NATO should protect us’ if there is an attack because, let’s be honest, NATO can only protect 30% of Turkish airspace. It was the US, Germany and the Netherlands that pulled out Patriots when we needed them the most.
Speaking about the US’ plans to expel Turkey from the F-35 project, Cavusoglu said it would go “against the deal” and would be met with disapproval by other US partners to the project.
“All decisions should be made with a consensus. Turkey is a partner of the F-35 program and has significant contributions. We contributed more than $1 billion to the program. These sorts of decisions made by the US are against the partnership deal. Other partners of the program are unhappy with this move too.”
Developed by US defense contractor Lockheed Martin, the F-35 is jointly produced by nine countries – the US, Turkey, the UK, Italy, Canada, the Netherlands, Denmark, Norway, and Australia. As Turkey produces some of the parts for the fighter jet, the Pentagon has recently said it has already begun to line up alternative manufacturers.
Ankara decided to buy the S-400 in 2017 after protracted efforts to purchase an air defense system from the US yielded no success. Washington then repeatedly claimed that the Russian-made weapons would compromise NATO systems, including the F-35. In response, Turkey called for the establishment of a joint commission with the US to clarify any technical issues. Washington did not react to this proposal.