Some State Department and Pentagon officials privately berated President Donald Trump for failing to issue a tough ultimatum to Ankara over its purchase of Russian-made S-400 air defence systems, ABC News cited several sources familiar with the situation as saying.
The sources, in particular, mentioned Vice President Mike Pence, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and acting Defence Secretary Patrick Shanahan, who have repeatedly voiced concerns that Turkey would buy the S-400s rather than US-made Patriot missile interceptors.
For months, they have “warned Turkey against choosing a Russian missile system that it is incompatible with the NATO defence systems”, the sources said.
Additionally, the sources pointed to the 22 February telephone conversation between Erdogan and Trump, during which the Turkish President allegedly rebuked the US Congress for “unconstitutional infringing” on Trump’s executive power by issuing sanctions against Ankara over the S-400 deal under the Countering America's Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA).
Trump pledged that he would talk to Congress and then moved on from the topic, the sources said, adding that his response “wasn't framed so that Erdogan saw what was at stake”. The White House has yet to comment on the ABC News report.
Speaking at a press conference after his talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday, Erdogan stressed that Turkey's decision to buy the S-400s was the country's “sovereign right" and that no one had a right to demand that Ankara abandon its deal with Moscow. Erdogan also reiterated his position that the S-400 issue was “closed”.
Earlier, he pointed out that the US had failed to provide an agreement on its Patriot air defence systems comparable to the S-400 deal, adding that the payments for the Russian air defence systems will go ahead as required by the contract with Moscow.
“We have finalised the deal on S-400s. We offered the US to buy their Patriots, but they failed to give us a proper offer. So now the S-400 deal is coming to life and we await its supplies in July,” Erdogan said.
He has also demanded a timely supply of F-35s, noting that the country has already paid for their procurement and invested in their development.
US officials have more than once threatened to block deliveries of the Lockheed Martin F-35, a new fifth-generation stealth fighter, to Ankara if it goes through with the S-400 purchase amid fears that the Russian air defence system could compromise the F-35's stealth capabilities.