Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has celebrated the arrival in Turkey of the Russian S-400 air defense system, despite the threat of US sanctions, and stated that he wishes to co-produce weapons with Russia in the future.
Speaking in Ankara on Monday –on the third anniversary of a failed coup attempt against him– Erdogan promised that the newly-acquired S-400 batteries will be fully deployed in less than a year. Russian cargo planes began delivering the system’s components on Friday, with more transport flights arriving over the weekend.
“And as of today, the eighth plane arrived and started being unloaded. Inshallah [God willing], we will be done by April 2020,” Erdogan said. The Turkish leader then said Ankara would “go much further” with a view to setting up “joint production with Russia.”
During the tenure of US President Barack Obama, Turkey had been in negotiations to purchase American-made Patriot missiles, a deal that fell through when Erdogan’s government asked for the sale to include a transfer of technology. Erdogan mentioned the failed Patriot deal in an interview on Sunday, saying that Turkey went with the Russian system because “we need to have alternatives.”
In choosing the Russian alternative, Erdogan risked the ire of Washington. Purchasing the missiles opens Turkey up to sanctions under CAATSA, a 2017 act that, among other things, can be used to penalize US allies for “transactions” with the Russian defense sector. The Turkish leader dismissed the threat of sanctions on Sunday, however, telling reporters that he believed President Donald Trump will “find the middle ground” and waive economic penalties.
The US has also threatened to exclude Turkey from its F-35 jet fighter program, claiming operating it alongside the S-400 would allow Moscow to learn the stealth fighter’s secrets.
Washington has remained tight-lipped about potential retaliation, however government sources reportedly told Bloomberg on Saturday that sanctions will be applied later this week, avoiding the political symbolism of punishing Erdogan on the anniversary of the 2016 coup.