Turkey may take early delivery of Russian missiles

Turkey may take delivery of Russian S-400 missiles earlier than planned, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said, according to several local media outlets.

The government may receive the air defence weapons before July, the original handover date, Erdoğan told reporters on his plane as he returned from a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow on Tuesday.

“The job is done, everything is finished, we are saying,” said Erdoğan, complaining about ongoing arguments over the missiles that could prompt the United States to impose economic sanctions and cancel delivery of F-35 fighter jets.

“It was expected that the handover of the S-400 missile defence system would take place in July, but it can perhaps be brought forward.”

The S-400 purchase, which reflects ever-warming relations between Erdoğan and Putin, has caused deep rifts with the United States. It follows the imposition of sanctions on Turkey in August last year for the detention of U.S. pastor Andrew Brunson, which sent the lira into freefall and helped cause an economic recession.

Leading U.S. senators wrote in the New York Times on Tuesday that Turkey’s purchase of the weapons would require Washington to impose economic sanctions and halt delivery of F-35s. That could produce more market turmoil, they said. The U.S. government has offered Turkey Patriot air defence missiles instead.

Erdoğan said Turkey had sought to buy the Patriots during the Obama presidency but Congress had rejected the request and then Obama had failed to push the purchase through. Turkey is now requesting that the United States share Patriot technology as part of the deal.

“We are here as a NATO member with one of its strongest armies,” Erdoğan said. “Why can’t a strong NATO member have a powerful air defence system?

“If you are our friends, why are you throwing thousands of obstructions in the way? We say give it … you don’t give it. Give the technology … you don’t. Is this friendship?”

Responding to a reporter’s question about whether Turkey could purchase Russian fighter jets as a substitute for F-35s, Erdoğan said Ankara was seeking to strengthen bilateral relations with Moscow.

Speaking to news channel NTV on Wednesday, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said that in the absence of F-35s, Turkey could buy fighters jets from another source, and could also buy more from Russia, Anadolu Agency reported

"If the United States refuses to sell us Patriots, tomorrow we could buy a second S-400, or another air defence system," Anadolu quoted Çavuşoğlu as saying.