Turkish minister says Russian defense system buy a ‘done deal’ despite U.S. warnings
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said Wednesday Ankara is determined to go ahead with the purchase of a Russian-made S-400 missile defense system despite strong objections from the Trump administration and other NATO allies.
Mr. Cavusoglu dismissed White House efforts to cut Turkey off from acquiring the U.S.-built F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, as punishment for proceeding with the S-400 missile buy, saying the deal with Moscow was final.
“S-400 deal is a done deal and we will not step back from this,” Mr. Cavusoglu said during a NATO event sponsored by the Atlantic Council. But the Turkish diplomat did note the continued impasse between the U.S. and Ankara over the Russian deal “will have a negative impact on bilateral relations, which we do not prefer.”
His comments come a day after acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan said Turkey would eventually abandon the Russian missile, in favor of the American-made Patriot missile.
“I expect we’ll solve the problem so that they have the right defense equipment in terms of Patriots and F-35′s” in Turkey, Mr. Shanahan told reporters at the Pentagon Tuesday.
Washington has pressed Turkey to buy the American-made Patriot missile in lieu of the S-400, over fears that mixing of the Russian weapon systems and the F-35 could give Moscow critical intelligence on the new jet’s capabilities and features.
The Defense Department has already cancelled all transfers of critical equipment related to the sale of roughly 100 F-35 jet fighters to Ankara, in response to the pending missile deal with Russia.
The move was seen as the first steps toward the outright cancellation of the massive U.S. foreign weapons sale to Turkey.
But Mr. Cavusoglu insisted the S-400 poses no threat to the F-35 or other NATO-centric defense systems. “This is for our own use, this is a defense system,” he said. “It will not be integrated into NATO system, we made it very clear that this system will not see any NATO system including F-35s.”
Moreover, the U.S. or any other ally does not have the right to determine how Turkey meets its national security needs, he said.
“Turkey doesn’t have to choose between Russia and any others, and we don’t see our relationship with Russia as an alternative to others. Nobody, neither west nor Russia, should ask us to choose,” Mr. Cavusoglu added.