Pentagon warns Turkey about devastating consequences of buying advanced Russian made S-400 air defense missile systems

Advanced Russian made S-400 air defense missile systems

A top Pentagon official has warned Turkey about devastating consequences of buying advanced Russian made S-400 air defense missile systems.

Kathryn Wheelbarger, the acting US assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs, said at an event on Thursday that Turkey’s purchase of the Russian missiles would damage Ankara’s ability to work with NATO.

Speaking at the Atlantic Council in Washington, Wheelbarger threatened that the US would hit Turkey with sanctions if Ankara insisted on buying the Russian-made system.

The Pentagon official threatened that Ankara’s status as NATO member and its participation in the US F-35 fighter program are on the line.

"Completion of this transaction would be devastating, not only to the F-35 program… It would potentially rupture Turkish interoperability with NATO, a key aspect of the defense of the Alliance and let’s be clear — the S-400 is a Russian system designed to shoot down an aircraft like the F-35. And it is inconceivable to imagine Russia not taking advantage of that collection opportunity," Wheelbarger said.

Ankara has repeatedly stressed that the S-400 agreement is a done deal and cannot be change.

Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar has said the delivery of the Russian system to his country “might be delayed until after June” irrespective of US pressure and threats of imposing sanctions on Ankara over the purchase of the military hardware.

“They may not catch June, but will arrive in following months. The process has started,” Akar said in an interview this week.

The Turkish defense minister then refused to comment on “assumptions” when asked about measures Turkey would adopt in case of possible US sanctions over Ankara’s procurement of S-400 missile defense system from Moscow.

“We are carrying out activities in a way that will completely fulfill the responsibilities given to us,” Akar said, adding that Turkey has made full payment for F-35 fighter jets to Washington.

Turkish Vice President Fuat Oktay said earlier this month US concerns as to Ankara’s purchase of S-400 systems from Moscow were not reasonable and added that Turkey would not back down.

The United States announced on April 1 that it would be suspending all “deliveries and activities” related to Turkey’s procurement of F-35 stealth fighter jets over Ankara’s plans to purchase the S-400s.

On April 24, Turkey Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said his country will look elsewhere for an alternative to American F-35 fighter jets if Washington blocks the delivery of its advanced stealth warplanes to Ankara.

Moscow and Ankara finalized an agreement on the delivery of the S-400 in December 2017.