WASHINGTON DC (Kurdistan 24) – The US twice warned Turkey on Tuesday against purchasing the Russian S-400 air defense missile system. US authorities fear that if Turkey proceeds with the purchase, it will put at risk the latest US jet fighter, the F-35.
Turkey is slated to purchase 100 of the new airplanes, and Turkish pilots have already begun training on them in the US. Nonetheless, Turkey is slated to receive the S-400 later this year.
Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti, Commander of European Command (EUCOM), which includes Turkey, testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee on Tuesday.
Asked by Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D, New Hampshire) about the compatibility of Turkey’s purchase of the Russian missile system and its acquisition of the latest US fighter, Scaparrotti responded, “My best military advice” would be that if Turkey proceeds with the purchase of the Russian air defense system, “we don’t then follow through” with the sale of the F-35.
Scaparrotti described Ankara’s potential purchase of the S-400 as a “huge decision for Turkey,” adding, “it connects in many different ways” to the F-35, as well as other weapons systems the US might provide Turkey, which Ankara could also lose.
Robert Palladino, State Department Deputy Spokesperson, repeated Scaparrotti’s caution and added a warning about the possibility of sanctions if Turkey went ahead and bought the Russian weapons system.
“We’ve clearly warned Turkey that its potential acquisition of the S-400 will result in a reassessment of Turkey’s participation in the F-35 program and risk other potential future arms transfers to Turkey,” Palladino stated, as he responded to a question from Kurdistan 24.
Turkey’s acquisition of the S-400 could also “lead to potential sanctions under Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act, CAATSA, upon any government entities, private industry or individuals that are involved in such a transaction,” Palladino continued.
Reportedly, Turkish officials at lower, working levels understand US concerns and the possible consequences, but Turkey’s drive to acquire the S-400 comes from the most senior political levels, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan himself.
Vice-President Mike Pence underscored the seriousness with which the Trump administration views Turkish plans at last month’s Munich Security Conference, where Pence affirmed, “We’ve also made it clear that we will not stand idly by while NATO allies purchase weapons from our adversaries. We cannot ensure the defense of the West if our allies grow dependent on the East.”
On Monday, a US delegation, led by James Jeffrey, US Special Representative for Syria Engagement and a former ambassador to Turkey, arrived in Ankara for talks on the S-400 and the future of northeastern Syria, after the planned US withdrawal of most of its forces. Little concrete information, however, has emerged about those discussions.
Editing by Nadia Riva