Turkey sanctions threat for S-400s very real, top U.S. official says

The U.S. State Department said Turkey faces possible economic sanctions after test-firing S-400 air defence missiles purchased from Russia.

"That risk is very real because they ... continue to pursue the S-400," R. Clarke Cooper, the U.S. State Department’s official in charge of arms sales, said on Wednesday, according to Agence France Presse.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said last week that NATO member Turkey tested the system, confirming earlier press reports of a launch of the S-400s from the country’s northern Black Sea coastline. The Pentagon issued a swift condemnation of the move, urging the Turkish government to reverse course and refrain from activating the system, which it says compromises the alliance’s defences.

"Of course, with the testing of it, sanctions is very much something that is on the table," Cooper told a small group of reporters, according to AFP.

The United States has already expelled Turkey from a programme to purchase the F-35 stealth fighter jet. The U.S. Congress passed a law in 2017 foreseeing sanctions against any nation that bought significant amounts of arms from Russia and other U.S. adversaries.

Cooper said the red line for the United States was Turkey’s activation of the S-400s. He said he still hoped that Turkey would ‘’walk back from operationalising the system’’.

"Put it away, decommission it, just do not integrate it and make it operable," he said.

Cooper said the U.S. government was still intent on ensuring that Turkey stayed in the Western alliance.

"We certainly are working to make sure that Turkey remains in the West. This is something that's important not only to the United States, but to the overall alliance," he said.