Amid the recent agreement between Ankara and Washington to enhance dialogue and mend diplomatic fences, the U.S. called on Turkey to reconsider its decision to purchase Russian S-400 defense system saying that the country might face sanctions. However, Turkish officials ruled out possibility of direct sanctions and reminded failed promises of "Turkey's allies" on the defense systems issue.
The Habertürk daily reported that an official from Washington told journalists in U.S. that "The U.S. understands that Turkey wants to strengthen its air defense. However, we have concerns over possible purchase of Russian S-400 systems. We are clearly voicing this. This purchase might have negative implications over the interoperability of NATO and within the framework of newly passed law in Congress it might pose sanctions against Turkey." The official also added that "We want to help Turkey find a better alternative to meet its air defense needs."
Turkish officials have been stressing that Turkey had asked its NATO allies to purchase defense systems, however its needs remained unmet which prompted Turkey to purchase Russian S-400 system. While the U.S. has been lampooning the process of Turkey's purchase of S-400, NATO Secretary General Stoltenberg previously acknowledged that Turkey faces significant threats to its national security and it is a national decision to have the system.
As a new law passed in the U.S. which included the Russian companies selling S-400 systems in the sanction list, the question looms over now whether Turkey will face sanctions or not.
"When the U.S. includes the company selling the S-400 system within the scope of sanctions, there is a possibility that Turkey might indirectly affected by this. However, they cannot impose a direct sanction against Turkey," Fikri Işık, deputy prime minister said in relation to the issue. The issue of imposing sanctions against the system was also raised during the meetings of the U.S. Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson in Ankara. In the joint press conference with Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, Tillerson said that the issue will be carefully evaluated and a group of experts will work on that. Tillerson underlined that the decision was taken against Russia and not aiming to harm the allies of the U.S.
Commenting on the issue, Çavuşoğlu said that "Turkey urgently needs an air defense system. We want to buy from our allies but it failed." He stressed that Turkey had to look for other alternatives to meet its needs and added that Turkey has no problems with its allies. Çavuşoğlu stated that the members of the commission working on the issue need to understand each other well. In December, Turkey officially signed a $2.5 billion agreement with Russia for the S-400s — Russia's most advanced long-range anti-aircraft missile system.
Aiming to address its growing defense needs, Turkey decided to purchase the S-400 missile defense system from Russia. Turkey will be the first NATO member country to acquire the system.
Moreover, Turkey seeks to build its own missile defense systems as the deal also involves the transfer of technology and know-how. The S-400 system, which was introduced in 2007, is the new generation of Russian missile systems, and so far Russia has only sold them to China and India.