Turkey says ‘no step back’ on S-400s

It has been the United States and not Turkey that has had to take a step back regarding the Russian-made S-400 air defence systems to date, Turkey’s Presidential Spokesman İbrahim Kalın said in an interview on Friday.

“We did not make the decision to purchase the S-400s in one night. Efforts have started as of today for the joint mechanism for the S-400 and the F-35,” Kalın said, adding that himself and the newly-appointed U.S. National Security Advisor Robert C. O'Brien had been given the task.

Turkey’s S-400s won’t be integrated into the NATO system and the process will continue bilaterally with the United States, the spokesman said.

The United States had said sanctions on Turkey would go into effect if the country did not abandon the S-400s, then changed to if the defence systems were delivered, Kalın said. “We have passed that stage as well. Now they say, ‘If you activate them.’ … There is no step back, Turkey will activate the S-400s.” 

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan had told reporters on Thursday as he made his way back from his Washington visit that despite the threat of U.S. sanctions, Turkey would not give up the S-400s but was still interested in buying the U.S.-made Patriot systems to bolster its air defences.

Kalın also said Erdoğan spoke with Russian President Vladimir Putin before his Washington visit and that Putin is expected to visit Turkey in January.