Turkey has exercised its sovereignty rights by choosing the Russian-made S-400 missile defense systems, Defense Minister Hulusi Akar said Friday, as he said he believes Turkey and the United States can continue to cooperate for the benefit of the region and NATO.
Accompanied with Chief of General Staff Gen. Yaşar Güler, the Land Forces Commander Gen. Ümit Dündar and Air Forces Commander Gen. Hasan Küçükakyüz, Akar spoke at a ceremony in Kayseri province.
“We wanted to purchase the Patriots from the U.S. and the SAMP-T from France-Italy, but this was not possible due to various reasons,” Akar said, as he noted that air defense systems have become a necessity for Turkey in the face of increasing risks and threats.
Akar continued by saying that the S-400 issue was a “national matter” and that Turkey exercised its sovereignty rights by purchasing the system.
He also rejected claims saying that Turkey preferred the S-400 over the Patriots even though the country had the chance to purchase the latter, as he explained that the U.S. has failed to positively respond to Turkey’s expectations.
Reiterating the idea that Turkey is ready to address Washington’s concerns, Akar said Ankara has reassured them that the S-400 would only be used when necessary.
“If nobody has any intentions to attack Turkey, then it will not hurt anyone,” Akar said, adding that some NATO member-states also own Russian-made systems like the S-300.
“Technical solutions are possible, and we have proposed a joint working group with the inclusion of NATO,” Akar said, adding that Washington’s sanctions against Turkey contradict the spirit of alliance.
Ties between NATO allies Turkey and the U.S. were badly strained in 2019 over Ankara’s acquisition of the advanced S-400 Russian air defense system, prompting Washington to remove Turkey from its F-35 Lightning II jet program.
The U.S. argued that the system could be used by Russia to covertly obtain classified details on the Lockheed Martin F-35 jets and is incompatible with NATO systems. Turkey, however, insists that the S-400 would not be integrated into NATO systems and would not pose a threat to the alliance.
However, the Russian-made S-300 system has been sold to 20 countries, including NATO member countries such as Bulgaria, Greece and Slovakia.
The S-300 system, completed in 1978, is designed to defend against short- and medium-range air attacks and is considered one of the world’s most powerful air defense systems.
In 1996, Greece signed a deal with Russia for the purchase of S-300s for deployment on Greek Cypriot soil.
Ankara has repeatedly stressed it was the U.S.' refusal to sell its Patriot missile systems that led it to seek other sellers, adding that Russia had offered a better deal, including technology transfers. Turkey even proposed setting up a commission with the U.S. to clarify any technical issues.