The US and NATO are continuing to exert pressure on Turkey over its planned acquisition of S-400 Triumf anti-aircraft missile systems, arguing that the weapon is incompatible with the NATO missile defence system and poses a security threat to the bloc.
On 7 June, acting US Defence Secretary Patrick Shanahan gave Turkey an ultimatum, stressing that it should choose between buying S-400 SAMs and Lockheed Martin F-35 stealth fighters as it could not use both. To break the stalemate, the US offered Ankara to purchase its Patriot surface-to-air missile (SAM) system instead of the Russian anti-aircraft weapon.
"Turkey does not consider the US proposal to deliver Patriots sufficient to meet its defence requirements", says Erdogan Karakus, a retired Turkish Air Force lieutenant-general and the head of the Turkish Union of Retired Officers. "For this very reason Ankara insists on receiving S-400 systems".
Additionally, Ankara knows that if the US provides Patriots to Turkey, there will be no talk of any sort of technology transfer, he pointed out.
"Therefore, there were problems with the acquisition of the Patriot from the start. When we asked the Americans to provide us with this system under the condition that some of its spare part would be produced in Turkey we faced Washington's refusal. Therefore, we are now determined to buy S-400", the retired lieutenant-general elaborated.
"Now the US is trying to prevent us from getting the S-400 at all costs", Karakus underscored. "This situation has yet again demonstrated that we need to further strengthen cooperation between Turkey and Russia in this field".
In early June, the Pentagon warned Turkey that it would halt training of its pilots on the F-35 fighter jet programme at the end of July. Acting US Defence Secretary Shanahan announced that Turkish pilots which were undergoing training at the Luke Air Force Base in Arizona would have time to finish their studies by 31 July, adding that new pilots from Turkey would not be accepted.
In response to Shanahan's statement, Turkish officials told Hürriyet, a daily newspaper, that Ankara had not changed its stance on the S-400 missile defence project.
Earlier, on 18 May, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan highlighted that in addition to purchasing the S-400, Ankara was planning to engage in joint production of the S-500 Prometey, a Russian surface-to-air missile and anti-ballistic missile system.
"There is absolutely no question of taking a step back from the S-400s purchase. That is a done deal," Erdogan told journalists as quoted by Anadolu Agency, "There will be a joint production of the S-500 as well as the S-400."
US lawmakers have repeatedly threatened to cancel the delivery of the 120 advanced F-35 stealth jets to Turkey. According to them, if Turkey buys both the S-400 and the F-35, Russian technicians would get access to the US plane's vulnerabilities which could upend the strategic balance of forces. Previously, all F-35-related shipments to the country have been frozen since April 2019.
Moscow and Ankara signed a loan agreement for the acquisition of the S-400 by Turkey in December 2017. The first shipments of the advanced missile defence system are due to reach Turkey in July 2019.
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