US Secretary of Defense James Mattis says his country is concerned about Turkey’s intent to purchase Russian S-400 air defense systems and that Washington takes a dim view of such a move.
In a press briefing at the Pentagon on Tuesday, Mattis warned Ankara against buying the missile defense system from Russia and said the US does “not recommend” the purchase.
“Turkey had a choice to make, a sovereign decision to make. But clearly Turkey bringing a Russian anti-aircraft, anti-missile system into a NATO country, we cannot integrate that into NATO,” Mattis told reporters. “Yes, it does concern us and we do not recommend that.”
The S-400 system, whose full name is the Triumf Mobile Multiple Anti-Aircraft Missile System (AAMS), is an advanced Russian missile system designed to detect, track, and destroy planes, drones, or missiles as far as 402 kilometers away. It has previously been sold only to China and India.
Washington blocked the sale of Lockheed Martin fighter jets to Turkey earlier this month in response to Ankara’s decision to purchase the Russian S-400 air defense systems. Turkey, however, has shown determination to press ahead with the purchase plan and already made the first payment for the anti-missile system last year.
Russia has announced that the first batch of S-400 systems will be delivered to Turkey next year.
In a televised speech in June, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan defended his decision to purchase Russian S-400 air defense systems, arguing that Washington had rejected his requests for more military hardware for years.
PressTV-Erdogan: Turkey will use S-400 systems if necessary
Erdogan says Turkey will use the Russian-made S-400 surface-to-air missile batteries “if necessary.”
“Are we going to depend on the US again?” the Turkish president said. “When we have been demanding from them for years, the answer that has been given to us is: The [US] Congress is not allowing.”
Erdogan added at the time that he fully intended to bring the new defense systems into play if necessary.
“We will not just buy the S-400s and place them in a storehouse. We will use them if need be,” he said. “This is a defense system. What are we going to do with it if not use this defense system?”
On April 3, Erdogan and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin said in the Turkish capital Ankara that they had agreed to expedite the delivery of S-400 missile systems. The delivery is expected to start between late 2019 and early 2020.
Turkey is striving to boost its air defense, particularly after Washington decided in 2015 to withdraw its Patriot surface-to-air missile system from Turkey’s border with Syria, a move that weakened Turkey’s air defense.
Before gravitating towards Russia, the Turkish military reportedly walked out of a $3.4 billion contract for a similar Chinese system. The withdrawal took place under purported pressure from Washington.
Ankara’s ties with its Western allies in NATO have been strained over a range of issues. Erdogan has been critical of Washington for supporting Kurdish groups in Syria that he says are responsible for terror attacks inside Turkey and also slammed Washington’s refusal to hand over Fethullah Gulen, whom Ankara accuses of masterminding a 2016 coup against the Turkish government.
The deepening rift between Washington and Ankara over the S-400 has recently been exacerbated by Turkey’s continued detention of American pastor Andrew Brunson, who has been held in Turkey since 2016 over alleged involvement in the botched putsch. If found guilty, he will face up to 35 years in jail.
Source: Press TV