Russian missile delivery to Turkey strains ally's relations with US

Erika Holt
July 13, 2019

"The first batch of equipment of S-400 missile defense system, which is procured to meet Turkey's air and missile defense needs, has started to arrive at Murted Air Base in Ankara", the ministry said in a statement.

Within the purchase contract signed between Turkey and Russian Federation, the first shipment of S-400 started arriving at Murted Air Base, formerly called the Akinci Air Base, located in northeastern suburb of Ankara, the ministry said in a written statement.

The two NATO ( North Atlantic Treaty Organization) allies have sparred for months over Turkey's order for the S-400s, which are not compatible with the transatlantic alliance's systems.

"We are concerned about the potential consequences of Turkey's decision to acquire the S-400 system", a North Atlantic Treaty Organisation official said, following repeated warnings that the Russian system is incompatible with allied weapons.

Ankara's deal with Moscow has been a major source of tension between Turkey and Washington.

Despite warnings from the USA that buying the Russian system could prompt sanctions, Turkey went ahead with the deal.

Turkey and the U.S. are North Atlantic Treaty Organisation allies - but Turkey has also been establishing closer links with Russian Federation.

Turkey, which was scheduled to receive its first aircraft later this year, has been among nine partner nations in the program. "Additionally, while all F-35 material deliveries remain indefinitely suspended, we call on the Department of Defense to proceed with the termination of Turkey's participation in the F-35 program".

Although expressed sympathy toward Turkey's decision to purchase the Russian system during a meeting with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on the sidelines of a meeting in Japan, Washington has repeatedly said that the Russian system is incompatible with North Atlantic Treaty Organisation systems and is a threat to the F-35.

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Fitch ratings downgraded Turkey's sovereign rating to 'BB-' on Friday and said it remained vulnerable to deterioration of ties with the US and added that while any USA sanctions on Turkey might have minimal direct economic effect, warned that their impact on sentiment could be significant.

The S-400 Triumph, which became operational in 2007, is created to destroy aircraft, cruise and ballistic missiles, including medium-range ones.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told journalists on Friday that "everything is happening in strict accordance with the agreements and signed contracts, all obligations are being carried out".

"We are aware of Turkey taking delivery of the S-400".

The Pentagon has twice pushed back a planned briefing today by senior officials on the subject, and it's unclear when anyone from the USA government will comment.

According to a report from Foreign Policy, Luke Air Force Base, Arizona, where the Turkish pilots had been training, made the decision to stop before July 31 because of information-sharing concerns.

The Pentagon is seeking new parts suppliers to replace those coming from Turkey should it buy the Russian defense system. North Atlantic Treaty Organisation now has that system stationed in Turkey for its own purposes in Syria, but Turkey never purchased it from Washington. Earlier this month, U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham appeared to raise the bar for sanctions, saying they may be triggered only when the missile system is activated.

American Lawmakers from both sides of the aisle have opposed Turkey having both the S-400 system and F-35 jets. Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar said later that Ankara would begin the deployment of the S-400 systems in October 2019.

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