US warns Turkey on activating S-400

Last week, the US warned Turkey against activating the S-400, the air defense missile system that it has obtained from Russia.

WASHINGTON DC (Kurdistan 24) – Last week, the US warned Turkey against activating the S-400, the air defense missile system that it has obtained from Russia.

Moscow has completed delivery of the weapons system, but its activation, originally scheduled for April, has been delayed.

US Position: Turkey Exposed to Sanctions

The US ambassador to Turkey, David Satterfield, explained Washington’s continued opposition in a virtual seminar that was hosted online by The Atlantic Council on Thursday.

Responding to a question from the moderator, Satterfield explained, “We’ve made our position quite explicit to President Erdogan, to all the senior leadership of Turkey,” as he indicated that the issue had been the subject of repeated discussions between Washington and Ankara.

“The operation of the S-400 system is not compatible with Turkey’s acquisition of the F-35,” Satterfield affirmed, referring to the most advanced US fighter jet, a program in which Turkey was actively involved until last July, when it was suspended, as it began to receive from Russia the first deliveries of the S-400.

Satterfield also warned of economic consequences for Ankara. The activation of the S-400 “exposes Turkey to the very significant possibility of Congressional sanctions, both those that invoke the CAATSA legislation” – which penalizes countries purchasing Russian weapons – “and additional freestanding legislative sanctions,” he stated.

“We have made our position clear, as I said,” Satterfield concluded, as he expressed, in diplomatic fashion, Washington’s dissatisfaction, “We do not have in our possession the assurances from the government of Turkey that would allow us to mitigate those concerns.”

Turkish Position: S-400 Activation Delayed, but will Proceed

Ibrahim Kalin, Chief Adviser to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, was scheduled to participate in the discussion, but was delayed, as he later explained, because of a meeting with Erdogan over COVID-19.

After Kalin joined the discussion, he was asked about Turkey’s intentions in regard to the S-400. Kalin confirmed, as had been reported earlier, that Ankara was postponing activation of the Russian missile system.

Kalin attributed the delay to difficulties caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, but “it will move forward, as it was planned,” he affirmed.

The coronavirus crisis is causing Turkey serious economic problems, and earlier this month, Ankara requested financial assistance from the US Federal Reserve bank which would allow it to swap Turkish lira for the US dollar.

And as a gesture of goodwill, Turkey sent two planeloads of medical supplies to the US to help it deal with its own coronavirus crisis.

Dr. Aykan Erdemir, a former Turkish parliamentarian and now a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, suggested to Kurdistan 24 that Kalin should be taken at his word: there is no major change in Turkish policy.

“Erdogan is desperate to tap into Western sources of funding,” Erdemir said, because of the economic crisis the coronavirus has caused.

“The Turkish president’s decision to postpone his planned activation of the S-400 air defense system and latest charm offensive through sending personal protection equipment to the US are all attempts to convince Trump to grant him a swap deal with the Federal Reserve,” Erdemir continued.

From Turkey’s perspective, that is preferable to the alternative, which would be a loan from the International Monetary Fund. An IMF loan would include conditions mandating transparency and accountability, which a deal with the Federal Reserve would not require.

“Overall, there are no guarantees whatsoever that the Erdogan government won’t activate the S-400,” Erdemir concluded, “and go back to business as usual with Russia in the future.”

Editing by Karzan Sulaivany