U.S. warns ‘Turkey is risking its NATO membership’

The NATO Foreign Ministerial summit, which marked the 70th anniversary of the military alliance, concluded in Washington today. During the two-day summit, top diplomats representing NATO member-states held meetings on global security challenges.

On the sidelines of the main event, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met with International Atomic Energy Agency Director General Yukiya Amano, during which the top American diplomat “reiterated Washington’s support for the important work of the IAEA in strengthening nuclear proliferation and promoting peaceful uses of nuclear energy, including the Agency’s critical verification role in the Islamic Republic of Iran.”

After his meeting with the Chief nuclear watchdog, Secretary Pompeo convened with Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu. This exchange came after a U.S. decision to halt delivery of equipment related to its stealth F-35 fighter-jets to Turkey, in response to Ankara’s decision to follow through on a planned purchase of Russia’s advanced S-400 surface-to-air missile defense system.

According to a Pentagon Spokesperson, “Pending an unequivocal Turkish decision to forgo delivery of the S-400, deliveries and activities associated with the stand-up of Turkey’s F-35 operational capability have been suspended.”

This statement was underscored by U.S. Vice President Mike Pence, who insisted in his speech to the Ministerial Summit, that Turkey’s referred to acquisition from Russia poses a great danger to NATO and the strength of the alliance. In his words: “Turkey’s purchase of a 2.5-billion-dollar S-400 anti-aircraft missile system from Russia poses great danger to NATO, and to the strength of this alliance. The fact that Turkey is moving ahead with these plans, even after the United States has made available the Patriot Air Defense system, is deeply troubling. The Pentagon made clear earlier this week, and I repeat today; If Turkey completes its purchase of the Russian S-400 missile system, Turkey risks expulsion from the joint F-35 program, which will harm not just Turkey’s defense capacity, but it may cripple many of the Turkish component manufacturers that supply that program.”

The American Vice President also took the opportunity to issue a warning. He said that Turkey will be putting its NATO membership at risk, if it follows through with the acquisition of the S-400. “Turkey must choose. Does it want to remain a critical partner of the most successful military alliance in the history of the world? Or does it want to risk the security of that partnership by making reckless decisions that undermine our alliance?” said Pence.

Despite the issuance of repeated warnings from the United States, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu referred to the planned purchase of the sophisticated Russian systems as “a done deal.”