Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu has reaffirmed the country's intent to keep the S-400 air defence systems that it procured from Russia "whatever the consequences" as the US Congress is taking the first step to punish the country for the move. The minister explained that the country has been "desperate" to acquire an air defence system, but was turned down by the US in that regard. He said that Russia, on the other hand, was willing to provide its S-400s, calling them "vital" for the country.
The foreign minister also noted that if Washington decides to punish Ankara with sanctions over the purchase of the Russian air defences, Ankara will be forced to respond in kind.
"Sanctions and threatening language never work. But if sanctions are placed, Turkey will have to reciprocate", Cavusoglu said.
US Sanctions Threats and Ankara's Possible Response
The US Senate Foreign Relations Committee recently passed the Promoting American National Security and Preventing the Resurgence of ISIS* Act, which includes among other things sanctions against all Turkish citizens directly involved in the country's purchase of Russian S-400s. It also prohibits the US from selling F-35 jets to Ankara as long as these air defences remain in the country.
While the bill is yet to be approved by the Congress and the US president, the Turkish Foreign Ministry has already cautioned Washington against the step, warning that Ankara could terminate the stay of American troops at the Incirlik military airbase. The base has long served as the deployment spot for American tactical nuclear armaments.
The US has been opposing Turkey's purchase of Russian air defence systems from the start, threatening to block F-35 deliveries and impose harsh economic sanctions. Washington claims that the system is incompatible with NATO's defence systems and could potentially reveal sensitive data about the F-35 jets to Moscow.
Ankara has refused to abandon the deal with Moscow, pointing out that the US reluctance to sell air defences had led the country to buy Russian, not American, systems. Turkey has argued that the S-400s are crucial for its national defence, but is still considering acquiring US-made Patriots as well.
Recently, the presidents of the two countries agreed to form a bilateral team of national security advisers to address the disagreements regarding the S-400 issue, but so far their work has not yielded any results.
*Daesh (also known as ISIS/ISIL/IS) is a terrorist organisation banned in Russia