U.S. ready for more discussion over S-400, Pentagon tells Ahval

(Update with U.S. State Dept. spokesperson's comments in final paragraphs.)

The Unites States remains "willing to engage in further discussions with the Government of Turkey regarding (its) concerns about the S-400 acquisition," Department of Defense spokesman for NATO, Russia and Europe Eric Pahon said in an email to Ahval on Wednesday.

Wednesday also saw a phone call between Trump U.S. President Donald Trump and his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

The two leaders discussed “a number of bilateral issues, including their shared desire to increase trade, the President’s decision to reduce steel tariffs on Turkey from 50 percent to 25 percent, Turkey’s planned purchase of the S-400 missile defense system, and the opportunity to continue the discussion during the G20 Summit in Osaka, Japan, next month,” White House spokesman Judd Deere said. 

CNBC reported last week that the U.S. government had given two weeks’ notice to Turkey to change its decision to buy Russian S-400 missile defence systems or face a series of sanctions, including expulsion from the US-made F-35 stealth jet programme. 

Turkey has been the part of the F-35 project since the early 2000s, and has invested more than a billion dollars in the project. However, U.S. lawmakers are preparing to expel Turkey from the programme if it goes through with its purchase of the Russian-built systems.

Turkey’s acquisition of the Russian S-400 air defence system will have “grave consequences” for its defence relationship with the United States, Pahon said in a written statement to Ahval in early March.

According to data released by the Defence and Aerospace Industry Manufacturers’ Association (SASAD), Turkish firms’ total defence imports increased $2.45 billion by 59 percent in 2018, and the United States received 41,8 percent of Turkey’s total market share. It means Turkey’s arms import from the United States doubled.

Pahon said in Wednesday’s email that the "the Department of Defense (had) highlighted concerns on the S-400 and the consequences it could have on the U.S. and NATO defense relationships with Turkey."

U.S. officials and members of congress have warned Turkey that, as a member of NATO, it needs to purchase military equipment does not pose threats to NATO hardware. 

The officials have expressed concerns that the computer systems on the S-400s could gather sensitive data on the flight of F-35 fighters and other NATO systems and transmit it to Russia.

"NATO countries need to procure military equipment that is interoperable with NATO systems. A Russian system would not meet that standard. NATO Allies, including the United States, have offered NATO interoperable systems to Turkey,” Pahon said in the email.

The United States approved a $3.5 billion sale of missile systems to Turkey in December. The package included 80 Patriot missiles, 60 PAC-3 missile interceptors and related equipment. The deadline for that offer expires in early June – the same time period the United States is said to have set as a deadline for the Ankara government to make its decision over the S-400 purchase.

Asked about the deadline at a press briefing on Wednesday, U.S. State Department spokesperson Morgan Ortagus said the U.S. government was "willing to engage with the Turkish government", but said the U.S. position remained the same.

"Turkey will face very real and very negative consequences if it completes the delivery of the S-400," Ortagus said. "This includes suspension of procurement and industrial participation in the F-35 programme, and also, because of CAATSA, exposure to sanctions. These are very serious, these are very real and I think our position remains quite consistent on this.”