Turkey will never bow to US sanctions over its deal to acquire Russian S-400 air defence systems, Turkish Vice President Fuat Oktay said on Sunday.
“When Turkey signs an agreement, Turkey keeps its promise. We signed this agreement and certain payments were made. I don’t think the arguments and concerns here have a lot to lean on”, he told local broadcaster Kanal 7.
The statement follows a warning by Patrick Shanahan, the acting US defence secretary, who said that if Ankara “decided that the S-400 is a decision they want to go forward with”, then the United States will stop manufacturing support for F-35 fighter jets in Turkey.
In a parallel development, House Armed Services Committee members announced a bill to block the sale of the fifth-generation fighter jets to Turkey if it doesn’t give up on its S-400 plans.
“Operating the S-400 alongside the F-35 would compromise the aircraft and its sensitive technology, impact interoperability among NATO allies, and most importantly pose serious risk to our shared defence and security”, Democratic Congressman John Garamendi said.
Addressing the controversy, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said that Ankara had been unable to receive air defence systems from its NATO allies for roughly 10 years, and reiterated that Russia’s systems do not jeopardise US F-35s:
“The United States says that S-400 will increase the vulnerability of F-35 aircraft. We do not think so but let the experts express their opinion. We have proposed to create a joint commission, if they are so concerned about that. However, we have not received a response from the United States”, Cavusoglu said last month.
The United States has on multiple occasions claimed that the S-400s are incompatible with NATO military equipment and alleged that the Russian systems pose a threat to the F-35s.
As Turkey has consistently refused to abandon the deal, Washington has threatened to withhold the sale of the stealth fighters to Ankara, or to slap it with sanctions under the 2017 Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA).
Russia and Turkey signed a $2.5 billion loan agreement for the shipment of a total of four batteries of S-400 systems in December 2017. The first delivery is set for July 2019 and will proceed as scheduled, according to Turkish officials.