Despite major potential fallout, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has declared that his country intends to purchase yet another shipment of S-400 missile defense systems from Russia.
By Erin Viner
This, despite the fact that such a move by Turkey is likely to deepen its ongoing dispute over the matter rift with NATO-ally the United States and prompt fresh sanctions against Ankara by Washington.
Claiming that Turkey has been unable to buy the air defense systems from any NATO ally on conditions he deems acceptable, Erdoğan told the CBS News’ “Face the Nation” televised program, “In the future, nobody will be able to interfere in terms of what kind of defense systems we acquire, from which country at what level.”
In remarks apparently directed at the White House, the defiant Turkish leader went on to assert, “Nobody can interfere with that. We are the only ones to make such decisions.”
When asked about Erdoğan’s comments, a State Department spokesperson said “We urge Turkey at every level and opportunity not to retain the S-400 system and to refrain from purchasing any additional Russian military equipment.”
Washington has repeatedly warned that further deliveries will almost certainly spark new punitive economic measures against Ankara. Following its first procurement of the defense system last year, Turkey’s Defense Industry Directorate, its Head Ismail Demir and 3 staffers were targeted by US sanctions.
“We continue to make clear to Turkey that any significant new Russian arms purchases would risk triggering CAATSA 231 sanctions separate from and in addition to those imposed in December 2020,” stated the spokesperson, citing the US’ 2017 Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act.
Not quite ready to abandon the diplomatic route to resolve the dispute, the State Department source said that the US continues to regard Turkey as an ally and friend, while continuing to seek ways to strengthen the bilateral partnership “even when we disagree.”
Meanwhile, Erdoğan also claimed that US President Joe Biden never raised the issue of alleged human rights violations during their talks on the sidelines of a NATO summit in Brussels last June, “because we don’t have any problems of that nature in terms of freedoms, Turkey is incomparably free.”
Human Rights Watch has accused the authoritarian Turkish leader of consolidating his power by the passage of legislation that contravenes international human rights obligations, while documentation by the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) found Turkey a top offender in imprisoning reporters.
Erdoğan is slated to travel to Russia for meetings with his counterpart Vladimir Putin tomorrow. While Ankara’s second purchase of S-400s are likely to be discussed, a Turkish official speaking on condition of anonymity told Reuters that the two leaders will focus on violence in northwestern Syria.
Moscow and Ankara have both deployed troops to back opposing sides in the Syrian Civil War. Russia has been helping close ally Syrian President Bashar al-Assad regain control of territory after a decade of conflict, while Turkey backs insurgent groups fighting to topple the ruling regime.