Turkey sticking to S-400 missile deal ‘in principle’, prepared to buy Patriots

Turkey’s plans to activate the S-400 missile defence systems it acquired from Russia last year are still going ahead “in principle” despite a lengthy delay to their activation, Turkish Presidency spokesman İbrahim Kalın told France 24.

The missile systems, which were due to be activated in April, have caused a rift between Turkey and its Western allies who say the Russian-built hardware could lead to subterfuge against advanced NATO weaponry.

Kalın reiterated during a televised interview with France 24 on Monday that Turkey would willingly work with countries to allay any security concerns they “may have about the S-400s being compatible or not compatible with the NATO defence system.”

But Kalın said Turkey’s plans to activate the S-400s were going ahead as planned.

“Because of the COVID virus things have been delayed but in principle we are sticking to our agreement with the S-400 as before,” he said.

The Turkish government has not explained why the coronavirus pandemic has caused a delay in the S-400 activation. Some observers have said that Turkey could be holding off on activating the missiles as it tries to mend ties with the United States that had been frayed by disagreements including the purchase of the Russian systems.

The United States suspended Turkey from the F-35 stealth fighter programme and halted its orders of the new generation jets after it received its first shipment of S-400s in July 2019.

The U.S. Congress has also drawn up a list of sanctions against Turkey over the purchase under the 2017 Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act, though Senate leader Mitch McConnell has so far refrained from bringing the matter to a vote in the upper chamber.

David Satterfield, the U.S. envoy to Turkey, said on April 30 that the Turkish government would risk both CAATSA sanctions and “additional freestanding legislative sanctions” if it activated the S-400s.

Turkish officials say that the S-400s will be activated as planned, but Kalın echoed earlier remarks by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan saying that Turkey would also buy U.S. Patriot missile systems.