Turkey Welcomes Arrival of Russian S-400 Defense Systems

The first pieces of the S-400 missile system Turkey bought from Russian Federation - against the wishes of the US and North Atlantic Treaty Organisation - began arriving Friday, according to Turkey's National Defense Ministry.

The first parts of the S-400 air defence system were flown to a military air base near the capital Ankara, the Turkish Defence Ministry said, sealing Turkey's deal with Russian Federation that Washington had struggled for months to prevent.

"We are aware of Turkey taking delivery of the S-400, our position regarding the F-35 has not changed and I will speak with my Turkish counterpart Minister Akar this afternoon", Esper said.

The deal with Russian Federation, with which Erdogan's government has increasingly allied in recent years, upends the USA plan to sell the advanced F-35 Joint Strike Fighter to Turkey.

Turkey, however, emphasised the S-400 would not be integrated into North Atlantic Treaty Organisation systems and would not pose a threat to the alliance.

Turkey is the first North Atlantic Treaty Organisation member country to acquire the system.

The US fears that if Ankara integrates the S-400 into its defences there is a risk that sensitive data about its F-35 could leak back to the Russians and it has threatened to expel Turkey from its fighter jet programme.

Turkey also said it would keep the US and Russian equipment separate to avoid allowing Russian access to USA stealth technology. "There's no problem and the process will continue in a healthy way going forward".

US officials urged Turkey to buy US Patriot missiles, arguing the Russian system would be incompatible with North Atlantic Treaty Organisation systems and expose the F-35s to possible Russian subterfuge.

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A Russian transport jet Friday brought the first delivery of the $2.2 billion missile system to a Turkish military air base outside Ankara, causing concern from Brussels to Washington.

"Our talks on the Patriot issue are continuing", the state-run Anadolu Agency quoted Akar as saying.

At the G-20 summit in Osaka, Japan, last month, Trump blamed the Obama administration for not allowing Turkey instead to buy Patriot missiles, the American alternative, implying the conditions his predecessor imposed on the potential sale were too harsh. Last week USA officials said the administration still planned to impose sanctions on Turkey.

On Friday, the Turkish government made no attempt to hide the arrival of the missile system, broadcasting the delivery and offloading of them on local television.

The detention of USA consular staff in Turkey has also strained relations, along with disagreements over Iran, Venezuela and Middle East policy.

Turkey says the system is a strategic defence requirement, particularly to secure its southern borders with Syria and Iraq.

Turkey, which was scheduled to receive its first aircraft later this year, has been among nine partner nations in the program. In response, the Pentagon is expected to announce that Turkey will be barred from receiving the new F-35 fighter.

The United States suspended the delivery of F-35 warplane-related equipment to Turkey in April until Ankara ditched the Russian deal, which now appears unlikely. Turkish media reports have said it could take until October for the system to be fully operational.

  • Sonia Alvarado