Turkey looks set to defy US and proceed with Russian S-400 acquisition

23 May 2019

A Russian S-400 system on display near Moscow in 2017. Turkey looks set to proceed with procuring S-400s despite the threat of US sanctions. Source: A Nemenov/AFP/Getty Images

Key Points

  • There are increased signs that Turkey will not scrap its Russian S-400 deal despite the US threat of sanctions
  • If Ankara continues with the deal the F-35s it had on order could be stopped and the country could also be subject to Countering America's Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) sanctions

There are increasing signs that Turkey will ultimately stick to accepting the Russian S-400 surface-to-air missiles (SAMs) it has ordered at the expense of not acquiring the 100 US-designed F-35 Joint Strike Fighters (JSFs) it has signed up for, informed Western defence sources have told Jane’s .

US news channel CNBC, quoting multiple people familiar with the matter, reported on 21 May that Turkey has a little more than two weeks to decide whether to complete a complex arms deal to buy the US Patriot air defence system or risk severe penalties by proceeding with an agreement to buy the rival Russian system.

In defiance of US warnings, however, Turkish Defence Minister Hulusi Akar told local media on 21 May that Turkey is preparing for all scenarios, including possible US sanctions, over its Russian S-400 deal.

“We need to set up an air defence system to protect our 82 million people and our country,” Akar said, stressing that Turkey was under threat of air and missile attacks from its border with Syria.

He added that the United States was still trying to dissuade Turkey from purchasing the Russian SAMs but that Ankara was determined to go through with the deal.

“We tell them it's a ‘done deal’ but they keep telling us ‘No deal is a done deal’,” he noted.

“Turkey is also making preparations for the potential implementation of CAATSA sanctions,” he said, falling short of detailing preparations to this end.

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