The test of the Russian S-400 missile system carried out on October 16 by Ankara and confirmed this Friday by President Erdogan provoked a strong reaction from Washington, which there sees a threat to their defense relations.
The United States on Friday condemned Turkey’s test of the Russian S-400 missile system and warned that defense relations with the strategic NATO ally risked being “seriously” affected. “The US Department of Defense condemns in the strongest terms the test carried out by Turkey on October 16 of the S-400 air defense system, a test confirmed today by the president” Recep Tayyip Erdogan, said a door – Pentagon speech, Jonathan Hoffman.
“Our position has always been clear and it has not changed: an operational S-400 system is not compatible with the commitments made by Turkey as an ally of the United States and NATO”, he added. “We are opposed to Turkey testing this system, it could have serious consequences for our defense relations,” the spokesperson warned.
The tests will continue
According to Turkish media, Ankara carried out the first test of the S-400 on October 16. This test was officially confirmed for the first time on Friday by Recep Tayyip Erdogan. “These tests, it is true, have been carried out and will continue,” the Turkish head of state told reporters in Istanbul. “We are not going to seek the advice of the United States for this.”
The acquisition in 2017 of the S-400s by Turkey, in the context of rapprochement between Ankara and Moscow, has caused friction with several Western countries, which highlight the incompatibility of these Russian systems with NATO systems.
In response to the delivery of the first battery last summer, the United States suspended Turkey’s participation in the manufacturing program for the state-of-the-art F-35 warplane, believing the S-400s could in unravel technological secrets. Turkey hopes to buy 100 F-35 fighters and had already received with great fanfare a first shipment of two of these stealth planes crammed with sensitive electronics.
The two planes, which were still on US soil when the first Russian S-400 arrived in Turkey, were bought by the US military for its own use. Congress passed a law banning the sale of F-35s to Turkey and Ankara, which produced many parts for the aircraft, lost all manufacturing contracts.
Although NATO allies accuse Ankara of fueling conflicts in Libya and Nagorno Karabakh, of causing tensions with Greece and Cyprus in the eastern Mediterranean, the administration of President Donald Trump has sought to avoid a split with Turkey.
Washington hoped Ankara would refrain from activating its four S-400 anti-missile batteries, or even sell them to a third country. But the October 16 test is a game-changer. “Turkey has already been suspended from the F-35 program and the S-400 remains a significant barrier to any progress in other areas of our bilateral relations,” Jonathan Hoffman concluded, without mentioning possible sanctions.
Punitive economic measures are enshrined in a law passed in 2017 by Congress, almost unanimously, to “counter America’s adversaries through sanctions.” This text notably provides for automatic sanctions when a country concludes a “significant transaction” with the Russian armaments sector.
Ankara justifies the purchase of the Russian missiles by claiming that the United States refused to sell it their Patriot air and missile defense system.