Russian President Vladimir Putin has lashed out at the United States for pushing NATO member Turkey into abandoning its decision to purchase S-400 surface-to-air missile systems from Russia, saying the US pressure will not produce any results.
“Turkey, a NATO ally, has decided to buy the world’s most advanced air defense system in its class, the S-400. So what? Why is it a crime?” Putin said at a meeting with global news agencies in St. Petersburg on Friday.
“I am having a hard time to explain this pressure. Such attitude against Turkey is unfair,” Putin said, adding, however, that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan would not yield to Washington’s pressure.
“As well as I know President Recep Tayyip Erdogan it is quite difficult to get any results by using pressure tools towards him. On the contrary, this will encourage Mr. Erdogan, and he will not make compromises while protecting national interests,” said Putin.
Putin’s remarks came two days after US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Washington continued its efforts aimed at discouraging Turkey from buying the advanced systems, arguing that the missile battery was incompatible with NATO defenses.
“We continue to work to keep the Turks in a place where they don’t actually acquire the S-400. I believe that they have not yet and we are hopeful they will never take possession,” Pompeo said during a testimony before the US House Foreign Affairs Committee on Wednesday.
On April 3, Erdogan and Putin said in Ankara that they had agreed to expedite the delivery of S-400 systems. The delivery is expected to start between late 2019 and early 2020.
Turkey has said the S-400 system would boost its defense capabilities in the face of threats from Kurdish militants and those linked with the terrorists of the Daesh Takfiri group as well as conflicts across its borders in neighboring Syria and Iraq.
Ankara’s move to purchase S-400 has also unnerved some other NATO member nations, prompting NATO officials to warn Turkey of unspecified consequences.
Elsewhere in his Friday remarks, the Russian leader criticized the US for creating obstacles on the delivery of advanced F-35 warplanes to Turkey over Ankara’s decision to purchase S-400 from Russia, saying Turkey was not the first NATO member to buy Russian defense systems.
A US Senate committee on Thursday passed a defense policy bill that included measures to bar Turkey from purchasing the F-35 jets.
In reaction to the US move, Turkish Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Hami Aksoy said Friday that the bill was “against the spirit of our alliance with the US,” and that Ankara would retaliate if Washington suspended delivery of the fighter jets.
“This is not a program managed solely by the US It is a multinational program and we expect everybody to fulfill their obligations,” said Aksoy, adding that Turkey has “fulfilled its obligations” regarding the F-35 program.
If the US takes such steps, “we will have to respond,” the spokesperson said.
Turkey intends to purchase more than 100 F-35 fighter jets, and has had talks with US officials about the likely purchase of Patriot anti-air missiles as well.
US-Turkey ties have been seriously on the decline in recent months over a host of issues, including Washington’s policy of backing Kurdish militants in Syria and a number of legal cases against Turkish and American nationals being held in the two countries.