WASHINGTON DC (Kurdistan24) – State Department Deputy Spokesperson Robert Palladino, on Thursday, repeated US warnings to Turkey regarding its planned purchase of the advanced Russian air defense system, the S-400.
Earlier this week, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan travelled to Moscow for his third meeting since late January with Russian President Vladimir Putin. The question of Turkey’s purchase of the Russian missile system arose in a joint press conference that Putin and Erdogan held on Monday, the first day of Erdogan’s visit.
“On the issue of the S-400s, we have determined our road map,” Erdogan told reporters. “Those who tell us to give up our plans, those who make recommendations, do not know us.”
Returning to Turkey the next day, Erdogan reaffirmed his position to journalists traveling on his plane, even suggesting that the delivery of the Russian weapon system could be advanced.
“It was expected that the handover of the S-400 missile defense system would take place in July, but it can perhaps be brought forward,” he said.
Asked by Kurdistan 24 about Erdogan’s statement, Palladino responded, “We’ve been pretty clear from here” and “from the Department of Defense that there are risks associated with the acquisition of the S-400.”
Palladino seemed to indicate that his statement had been coordinated with the Pentagon.
“Pending a Turkish decision to unequivocally forgo delivery of the S-400,” the “immediate impact” has been to suspend “deliveries and capabilities associated with the stand-up of the F-35’s operational capabilities,” he continued.
In addition to losing the F-35, Turkey’s taking delivery of the S-400, could lead to economic sanctions, as provided for in the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA), Palladino said. It would also put at risk Turkey’s acquisition of the Patriot missile defense system, the US equivalent of the Russian system.
The consequences of Turkey’s purchase of the S-400 which Palladino outlined, have been articulated by US officials before, as he indicated, but they have not changed the Turkish position.
Indeed, other US officials have been tougher—above all, Vice-President Mike Pence, who spoke last week at a conference on the sidelines of the NATO Foreign Ministers conference in Washington.
Pence suggested that if Turkey took delivery of the S-400, it could jeopardize its role in NATO. “Turkey must choose,” Pence said. “Does it want to remain a critical partner in the most successful military alliance in history, or does it want to risk the security of that partnership by making such reckless decisions that undermine our alliance?”
David Satterfield, Acting Assistant Secretary of the Bureau of Near East Affairs, has been nominated to be America’s next ambassador to Turkey. That position has been vacant since October 2017, when Ankara said it would no longer recognize the ambassador, after Turkey arrested two local employees of the US diplomatic mission, prompting the embassy to briefly suspend visa services.
The Senate Foreign Relations Committee—which must confirm all ambassadorial positions—held Satterfield’s nomination hearing on Thursday. In testimony before the committee, Satterfield was tougher than Palladino, as were some senators.
In his opening statement, Satterfield cited Pence’s remarks, warning that the S-400 could put Ankara’s standing within NATO at risk.
Sen. Bob Menendez (D, New Jersey) vigorously affirmed that Turkey would face sanctions if it proceeded to acquire the S-400.
“I hope that President Erdogan understands that the United States is not bluffing,” Menendez said. “It’s not a question of if” Turkey will face sanctions, he continued. “It will face sanctions.” And if that happens, “It’s going to hit the Turkish economy hard.”
“It’s going to rattle international markets. It’s going to scare away foreign direct investment. It’s going to cripple Turkey’s aerospace and defense industry,” the Senator warned.
Nonetheless, there is virtually no sign that Erdogan is reconsidering his decision, and analysts have begun to warn of major upheavals.
“If Erdogan continues to escalate tensions with Washington,” the consequences could “devastate Turkey’s ties with the US,” warned Dr. Aykan Erdemir and Merve Tahiroglu, of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, on Thursday.
Nicholas Danforth, a Visiting Senior Fellow at The German Marshall Fund of the United States, advised Al-Monitor, “barring a diplomatic miracle, both sides should brace for the coming crash.”
Editing by Nadia Riva