Delivery of system to continue throughout the week; Turkey claims purchase “a necessity”; Trump expected to impose sanctions; President spoke with Netanyahu on regional development, mainly Iran, on Friday.
Washington is expected to impose sanctions on Ankara after it received the Russian-made S-400 air defense system on Friday with the second shipment of equipment and components delivered on Saturday. The system’s delivery is expected to continue over the coming days. Turkey’s Defense Industry Directorate confirming over the weekend, “The delivery of parts belonging to the system will continue in the coming days. Once the system is completely ready, it will begin to be used in a way determined by the relevant authorities.”
Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar claimed the purchase of the S-400 system was “not a choice but a necessity.” He reported that the “training of our personnel for installing and operating the systems has been ongoing in both Turkey and Russia.”
The United States has opposed Turkey’s purchase of the advanced air defense system as it is a threat to its F-35 fighter jet capabilities. The US is concerned about sensitive information and intelligence on the F-35 program could be relayed to Russia. It also places Turkey at a strategic advantage in the region. The United States has been clear that going through with the system delivery could result in sanctions and affect bilateral ties.
Midweek, US Vice President Mike Pence asked Turkey whether it would maintain the nearly 70-year military cooperation with the United States or undermine relations. He warned Wednesday, “Turkey must choose. Does it want to remain a critical partner in the most successful military alliance in history, or does it want to risk the security of that partnership by making such reckless decisions that undermine our alliance?”
The US State Department on Friday canceled a press briefing on the situation with Turkey as President Trump reportedly continued meetings with security officials and advisors. President Trump also spoke with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sometime on Friday. The Office of the Prime Minister confirming, “Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke on the phone with US President Donald Trump. The two discussed regional developments and security matters, first and foremost, Iran. The Prime Minister expressed his appreciation for the President’s intention to increase sanctions on Iran.”
The S-400 is capable of tracking targets up to 400 kilometers (248 miles) and downing an F-35 jet. Its missiles can reach as far as 38 miles, down targets up to 150 miles away and are one of the globe’s most advanced and powerful defense systems.