Pentagon: Creating S-400 working group with Turkey will not resolve issues

Creating a joint U.S.-Turkish working group on Ankara's decision to purchase Russian S-400 missile defence systems would not resolve U.S. concerns over the issue, the U.S. Department of Defense Spokesman for NATO, Russia and Europe, Eric Pahon, told Ahval on Tuesday.

Pahon said that the United States and Turkey were already collaborating on many working groups, and that Washington was willing to establish more working groups on various issues.  

However, he said, referring to Turkey's planned purchase of the S-400s, "there has been no change to our message, the White House and the State Department have been in agreement."

The statements from both have been clear that "security concerns on putting together the S-400 and F-35 jets just cannot be overcome," Pahon said.

NATO and U.S. officials have expressed alarm at the prospect of the S-400s being placed on a NATO member's territory, where they fear the Russian systems could pick up sensitive data from NATO hardware including the new generation F-35 fighter jets.

A report published in Bloomberg last week quoted anonymous officials as saying the Turkish and U.S. presidents had agreed to set up a working group on the S-400 purchase after months of strong statements from U.S. officials criticising the deal.

The report drew speculation that Washington was prepared to give some leeway to Ankara, but Pahon was unequivocal that this was not the case.

"We are willing to look all kinds of other things with Turkey but that one issue that we have been clear," Pahon said.

The Pentagon spokesman pointed to recent statements from the White House and State Department and said that all departments are singing the same tune on the issue. "We are very close with them" said Pahon.

"We want to keep the relationship (with Turkey), we want to keep it healthy, but we are worried about the future of F-35 programme and what happens if Russians get access to that," he continued. "We are very adamant that you cannot put these two systems together."

Last week, the White House National Security spokesperson Garrett Marquis said that "obtaining the S-400 would create an unacceptable risk to U.S. technology, our pilots, and our aircraft. The United States has sent technical teams to Turkey more than once and hosted counterparts here to discuss the threat posed by the S-400."

During the State Department daily briefing on May 29, spokesperson Morgan Ortagus said “Turkey will face very real and very negative consequences if it accepts the delivery of the S-400. This includes suspension of procurement and industrial participation in the F-35 program, and also, because of CAATSA, exposure to sanctions.” 

Turkish officials, companies and groups could face sanctions according to the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA), which makes third parties that deal with individuals or entities on the United States’ List of Specified Persons.

Pahon said in a statement last week, "purchasing the S-400 would create an unacceptable risk because its radar system could provide the Russian military sensitive information on the F-35.  Those concerns cannot be mitigated. The S-400 is a system Russia built to try to shoot down aircraft like the F-35, and it is inconceivable to imagine Russia not taking advantage of the collection opportunity."


The opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Ahval.