Turkey says U.S. S-400 warning contradicts spirit of NATO

Turkish Defence Minister Hulusi Akar said on Wednesday that a U.S. warning of dire consequences for Turkey if it goes ahead with its planned purchase of Russian missile defence systems contradicted the spirit of the NATO alliance, state-run Anadolu news agency reported

Acting U.S. Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan sent a letter to Akar last week that included a detailed list of steps the United States would take if Turkey acquired Russian S-400 missiles that Washington says threaten the security of NATO systems.

Akar, who is in Azerbaijan for a trilateral meeting of Turkish, Azeri, and Georgian defence ministers, told reporters that Ankara had been reviewing the language of the U.S. letter.

“Though the letter voices expectations for solving existing problems in the framework of strategic partnership and by protecting comprehensive security cooperation and states, the importance of continuing meetings [between Ankara and Washington], we saw from the first moment that its language contradicted the spirit of the alliance. We are conducting the necessary work accordingly and preparing the required answer,” Akar said. 

The letter was sent one day before the previously set deadline by Washington for Ankara to decide to either cancel its acquisition of Russia’s S-400 missile systems and buy U.S.-made Patriots or risk expulsion from an advanced U.S. fighter jet programme, U.S. sanctions and possible blowback from NATO.

In April, the United States froze a joint F-35 manufacturing programme with Turkey, which produces 6 to 7 percent of the parts for the fighter jets. The U.S. military on Monday grounded six Turkish pilots who had been training to fly the F-35s in the United States. 

Meanwhile there is bipartisan support in the U.S. Congress for imposing measures against Turkey, including sanctions under the Countering America's Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA). The U.S. House of Representatives unanimously passed a resolution on Monday calling on Turkey to cancel its planned acquisition of the Russian missiles, or face U.S. sanctions. 

U.S. Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment Ellen Lord said on Friday that Washington was disturbed by news that around 100 Turkish servicemen had travelled to Russia at the end of May to receive training on the S-400s. 

Turkish news site Habertürk reported on Monday that a nine-member Russian team would visit Turkey on June 27-28 ahead of the delivery of the S-400 missile systems. Habertürk also said that, wary of U.S. pressure on Turkey, Moscow wanted to compete the installation of the installation of first S-400 missile system by July 15.

Turkish pro-government newspaper Yeni Şafak reported on Sunday that Ankara was considering Russian Su-57 or Chinese J-31 jets as possible options to replace the F-35s if Washington halted the delivery of the stealth fighters.