President Tayyip Erdogan said Turkey still intended to buy a second batch of S-400 missile defense systems from Russia, a move that could deepen a rift with NATO ally Washington and trigger new U.S. sanctions.
Washington says the S-400s pose a threat to its F-35 fighter jets and to NATO’s broader defense systems. Turkey says it was unable to procure air defense systems from any NATO ally on satisfactory terms.
“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,” Erdogan said in an interview that aired on CBS News’ “Face the Nation” on Sunday.
“Nobody can interfere with that. We are the only ones to make such decisions.”
The United States imposed sanctions on Turkey’s Defense Industry Directorate, its chief, Ismail Demir, and three other employees in December following the country’s acquisition of the first batch of S-400s.
Talks continued between Russia and Turkey about the delivery of a second batch, which Washington has repeatedly said would almost certainly trigger new sanctions.
“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,” said a State Department spokesperson when asked about Erdogan’s comments.
“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,” the spokesperson added, referring to 2017 Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act.
The spokesperson also said the United States regards Turkey as an ally and friend and seeks ways to strengthen their partnership “even when we disagree.”
Erdogan will meet with President Vladimir Putin in Russia on Wednesday to discuss issues including the violence in northwestern Syria.
Erdogan also said that U.S. President Joe Biden never raised the issue of Turkey’s human rights track record, seen as extremely troublesome by international rights advocacy groups, confirming Reuters reporting from earlier in September.
Asked whether Biden brought up the issue during their June meeting on the sidelines of a NATO summit in Brussels, Erdogan said: “No he didn’t. And because we don’t have any problems of that nature in terms of freedoms, Turkey is incomparably free.”
Turkey is among the top jailers of journalists, according to figures from the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), while Human Rights Watch says Erdogan’s authoritarian rule has been consolidated by the passage of legislation that contravenes international human rights obligations.
Impact on Pakistan
It is worth mentioning here that the US-Turkish tensions have impacted Pakistan, as the Pakistan-Turkey deal happened in 2018 when Pakistan signed a $1.5 billion contract with the Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI) for 30 T129 Atak helicopters. These helos would be replacing Pakistan’s current fleet of American AH-1F cobra gunship helicopters obtained in the 1980s.
However, before the deal takes any practical form, the TAI must secure export licenses from the US government, which have been denied in the past due to the current political situation between the two countries.
The T129 is a twin-engine multirole attack helicopter produced under license from the Anglo-Italian company AgustaWestland and based on the A129 Mangusta. It is powered by two LHTEC T800-4A turboshaft engines. Each engine can produce 1,014 kilowatts of output power.
LHTEC, the company manufacturing the engine, is a joint venture between British Rolls-Royce and American firm Honeywell.
In March 2021, top Turkish procurement official Ismail Demir had announced that Turkey was given a six-month extension from Pakistan, which meant that the Atak helicopters were to be delivered in September, however, no news regarding this has yet surfaced.
In January 2020 too, Pakistan had extended the deadline for TAI to deliver the helicopters, but with the sale in jeopardy, the Turkish government tasked Tusas Engine Industries, TAI’s sister company, with developing an indigenous engine for the T129.
Then, Turkey hoped that they might be able to get the engine ready or might even be able to get the export license by January 2021, but no progress has been made.
Courtesy of Reuters with additional input from GVS