In a statement Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said, Ankara intends to purchase a second batch of S-400 missile defense systems from Russia, in a move that could potentially deepen a rift with Washington and trigger new U.S. sanctions.
According to Washington, Russia’s S-400s pose a threat to its F-35 fighter jets and to NATO’s broader defense systems. Turkey, a NATO ally, said it was unable to purchase an air defense systems from any NATO ally on satisfactory terms.
“In the future, nobody will be able to interfere in terms of what kind of defense systems we acquire, from which country at what level,” said Erdogan in an interview that was aired on CBS News’ “Face the Nation”.
“Nobody can interfere with that. We are the only ones to make such decisions.”
In December 2020, Washington imposed sanctions on Turkey’s Defense Industry Directorate, along with its chief Ismail Demir and three other employees following Ankara’s decision to acquire a first batch of S-400s.
Despite US repeated threats that the purchase would face flak in terms of US sanctions, purchase negotiations between Turkey and Russia continues on the delivery of the second batch.
“We urge Turkey at every level and opportunity not to retain the S-400 system and to refrain from purchasing any additional Russian military equipment,” said a State Department spokesperson on Erdogan’s comments. “We continue to make clear to Turkey that any significant new Russian arms purchases would risk triggering CAATSA 231 sanctions separate from and in addition to those imposed in December 2020”.
The spokesperson also mentioned that the Washington regards Turkey as an ally and a friend and seeks ways to strengthen their partnership “even when we disagree.”
Erdogan is scheduled to meet his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin in Russia later this week on Wednesday to discuss issues including the violence in northwestern Syria.
When asked whether U.S President Joe Biden had raised the issue of Turkey’s human rights, Erdogan also Biden had never done so.
Turkey’s human rights track record is seen as extremely troublesome by international rights advocacy groups.
According to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), Turkey is among the countries which routinely jail journalists and is among the top jailers.
“Erdogan’s authoritarian rule has been consolidated by the passage of legislation that contravenes international human rights obligations”, said Human Rights Watch.