Turkey will retaliate if U.S. imposes sanctions over S-400s: minister

FILE PHOTO: First parts of a Russian S-400 missile defense system are unloaded from a Russian plane at Murted Airport, known as Akinci Air Base, near Ankara, Turkey, July 12, 2019. Turkish Military/Turkish Defence Ministry/Handout via REUTERS/File Photo

By Ece Toksabay and Tuvan Gumrukcu

ANKARA (Reuters) – Turkey would retaliate against what it called an unacceptable threat of U.S. sanctions over Ankara’s purchase of Russian S-400 missile defenses, its foreign minister said on Monday, adding he thinks President Donald Trump wants to avoid such measures.

Turkey began receiving deliveries of the surface-to-air S-400 systems earlier this month, prompting the United States to begin removing the NATO ally from its F-35 stealth fighter program over security concerns.

Washington says it is concerned that S-400 software will compromise its F-35s to the benefit of Russia. While several Republican and Democratic U.S. lawmakers have pressed for sanctions, Trump has equivocated in recent days.

“If the United States portrays an adversarial attitude towards us, we will take retaliatory measures, as we’ve told them. This is not a threat or a bluff,” Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said in an interview with broadcaster TGRT Haber.

“We are not a country that will bow down to those who show animosity towards Turkey,” he said, reiterating a threat of retaliation that Turkey made last month.

Cavusoglu added that he did not expect the U.S. administration to take such action.

“Trump does not want to impose sanctions on Turkey and he frequently says that his administration and the previous U.S. administration is also responsible for Turkey not being able to buy Patriot systems. This is true,” Cavusoglu said.

The United States announced last week it was beginning the process of removing Turkey from the program for the F-35 stealth jets, the most advanced aircraft in the U.S. arsenal, which is used by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and other partner countries.

Turkey, like some other NATO partners, was part of the manufacturing supply chain for the aircraft, producing some 900 parts and Turkish defense companies are set to lose work worth billions of dollars.

A U.S. official said it would cost some $500 million to $600 million to shift F-35 manufacturing from Turkey.

RUSSIAN ALTERNATIVE

The delivery of S-400 components is ongoing, with 14 shipments of related equipment having landed in Turkey over the last nine days. Deliveries are set to continue through April 2020.

Separately, Sergei Chemezov, head of Russia’s Rostec state conglomerate, said that Russia and Turkey were in talks about the possibility of jointly manufacturing some components of the S-400 system in Turkey.

“Moscow and Ankara are holding consultations in the area of the licensed production of the S-400 air defense system component parts,” Turkey’s state-run Anadolu news agency quoted Chemezov as saying.

“Besides, Turkey is interested in the latest Russian combat modules, air defense systems of various ranges, as well as anti-tank systems. Negotiations are underway for Russia to help the Republic of Turkey in creating its national air defense and long-range missile defense systems,” he said.

Chemezov added that Moscow was ready for various formats of technological cooperation, including in such high-tech areas as the aerospace industry, helicopter construction, and energy.

(Writing by Ece Toksabay; Editing by Jonathan Spicer and Frances Kerry)

Turkey rejects U.S. ultimatums, says it will not back down on Russian S-400s

FILE PHOTO: A view shows a new S-400 "Triumph" surface-to-air missile system after its deployment at a military base outside the town of Gvardeysk near Kaliningrad, Russia March 11, 2019. REUTERS/Vitaly Nevar/File Photo - RC1BFE102410

By Tuvan Gumrukcu

ANKARA (Reuters) – Turkey will not back down from its decision to buy Russian S-400 missile defense systems despite U.S. warnings that it will lead to Ankara’s exclusion from the F-35 fighter jet program, Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Thursday.

In what has become the main source of tension between Ankara and Washington, the NATO allies have sparred publicly for months over Turkey’s purchase of the S-400s, which Washington has said could trigger U.S. sanctions.

U.S. Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan last week sent his Turkish counterpart a letter warning that Ankara would be pulled out of the F-35 jet program unless it changes course from its plans to install the defenses.

In what was Turkey’s first direct response to the letter, Cavusoglu said no one can give Turkey ultimatums.

“Turkey will not back down from its decisions with these kinds of letters,” he said. “Turkey bought S-400, it is going to be delivered and stationed in Turkey.”

The S-400s are not compatible with NATO’s defense systems and Washington says they would compromise its F-35s, which Turkey also plans to buy. Turkey has proposed that the allies form a working group to asses the impact of the S-400s, but has yet to receive a response from the United States.

Cavusoglu on Thursday repeated Turkey’s call for the joint working group, saying experts from both countries should come together to evaluate U.S. concerns.

A day earlier, President Tayyip Erdogan said that Turkey had completed the deal with Russia and that the systems will be delivered in July. Russia has said it will begin the delivery of the systems in July.

Erdogan also said that Ankara would challenge its potential removal from the F-35 program on every platform and hold those who exclude Turkey accountable.

The United States has threatened to impose sanctions on Ankara under its Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA), the possibility of which has spooked investors and caused a selloff in the lira this year.

The lira stood at 5.8460 at 1029 GMT on Thursday, weakening from around 5.8320, where it stood prior to Cavusoglu’s speech. It was down some 0.7% from Wednesday’s close.

While Turkey has dismissed the U.S. warnings, Washington has said discussions are taking place with Ankara on selling Turkey rival Raytheon Co-Patriot defense systems. But, Erdogan has said the U.S. offer was not “as good as the S-400s”.

Defense Minister Hulusi Akar has said Turkey is working on a response to Shanahan’s letter and that it will be delivered in coming days.

The ministers later spoke by telephone on Thursday and discussed the letter, Turkey’s defense ministry said, adding that Akar had “emphasized the improper wording not in line with the spirit of the Alliance” in the letter during the call.

Israel’s deputy Defense Minister Eli Ben-Dahan said the strains between Turkey and the United States could help strengthen ties with Israel and boost the country’s participation in the F-35 program.

“It could also very much be that..the State of Israel will get another portion within the framework of the F-35 and additional things which, in part, were meant to have been transferred to factories in Turkey,” he told Army Radio.

(Reporting by Tuvan Gumrukcu and Ali Kucukgocmen; Additional reporting by Dan Williams in Jerusalem; Writing by Daren Butler; Editing by Jonathan Spicer and Angus MacSwan)

Turkey chafes at U.S. pressure over Russian defenses

FILE PHOTO: A view shows a new S-400 "Triumph" surface-to-air missile system after its deployment at a military base outside the town of Gvardeysk near Kaliningrad, Russia March 11, 2019. REUTERS/Vitaly Nevar/File Photo

By Daren Butler

ISTANBUL (Reuters) – Turkey said on Tuesday a U.S. House of Representatives’ resolution condemning Ankara’s purchase of Russian defense systems and urging potential sanctions was unacceptably threatening.

Relations between the two NATO members have been strained on several fronts including Ankara’s plans to buy Russia’s S-400 air defense systems, the detention of U.S. consular staff in Turkey, and conflicting strategy over Syria and Iran.

The standoff threatens to bring U.S. sanctions, which would hurt Turkey’s already recession-hit economy, and raise questions over its role in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

The resolution, introduced in May and entitled “Expressing concern for the United States-Turkey alliance”, was agreed in the House on Monday.

It urges Turkey to cancel the S-400 purchase and calls for sanctions if it accepts their delivery, which may come as soon as July. That, the resolution said, would undermine the U.S.-led transatlantic defense alliance.

In response, Turkey’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement that its foreign policy and judicial system were being maligned by “unfair” and “unfounded” allegations in the resolution.

“It is unacceptable to take decisions which do not serve to increase mutual trust, to continue to keep the language of threats and sanctions on the agenda and to set various artificial deadlines,” it added.

PILOT PROGRAM WOUND DOWN

President Tayyip Erdogan’s government faces a balancing act in its ties with the West and Russia, with which it has close energy ties and is also cooperating in neighboring Syria.

The United States is also pressuring Turkey and other nations to isolate Iran, including blocking oil exports.

U.S. officials said on Monday the training of Turkish pilots on F-35 fighter jets had come to a faster-than-expected halt at an air base in Arizona, as Ankara’s involvement was wound down over the S-400 controversy.

The United States says Turkey’s acquisition of Russia’s S-400 air defenses poses a threat to Lockheed Martin Corp’s F-35 stealth fighters, which Turkey also plans to buy.

“We rarely see it in foreign affairs, but this is a black and white issue. There is no middle ground. Either Mr. Erdogan cancels the Russian deal, or he doesn’t,” Eliot Engel, chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, said on the House floor on Monday.

“There is no future for Turkey having both Russian weapons and American F-35s. There’s no third option.”

Regardless of the U.S. warnings, Turkey appeared to be moving ahead with the S-400 purchase. Erdogan said last week it was “out of the question” for Turkey to back away from its deal with Moscow.

(Reporting by Daren Butler; Editing by Jonathan Spicer and Andrew Cawthorne)