Turkey has received the first shipment of S-400 air defense missile system equipment from Moscow, defying pressure from Washington to scrap the arms deal with Russia.
The components arrived at the Murted military airfield outside Ankara on Friday, the nation’s Ministry of National Defense said in a short statement. Russia’s Defense Ministry has also confirmed that the shipment has started and will continue as scheduled.
Both countries signed a contract for the delivery of four S-400 batteries in 2017. The contract earned Ankara the ongoing row with Washington, which strongly opposes the deal, claiming the purchase of advanced Russian-made weapons undermines the security of NATO and goes against American interests.
In order to pressure Ankara into dropping the contract with Russia, the US suspended the shipment of fifth generation F-35 jet fighters to Turkey. Last month, the Pentagon revealed plans to phase out Turkey’s participation in the F-35 program altogether by July 31. A senior US defense official told Reuters that Ankara should brace for “ramifications” for its economy as well, if it sticks to the S-400 agreement with Moscow.
Turkey has repeatedly rebuffed calls from the US to scrap the deal, saying it is free to choose the countries it buys weapons from. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said excluding the nation from the F-35 program would be “robbery,” since Ankara has already invested money in it.
Similarly, Washington has been attempting to dissuade India from purchasing S-400s. New Delhi reached a deal to buy the missile systems from Moscow in October. Indian officials are now seeking a waiver from the US that will allow the nation to buy the weapons without the risk of violating American sanctions on Moscow.
“We will do what is in our national interest,” India’s foreign minister, Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, said after talks with his American counterpart, Mike Pompeo last month.
The medium-range and long-range S-400 Triumf surface-to-air missile system was developed as an upgraded version of the S-300. The all-weather weapon can shoot down aircraft at a distance of up to 250km (155 miles) and intercept ballistic missiles up to 60km (37 miles) away.