President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has turned down a call by the U.S. to scrap a deal to buy the Russian S-400 missile defense systems, saying Washington should not conflate the issue of Ankara’s procurement of defense systems with the two NATO allies’ cooperation in Syria.
Turkey had to seek alternative air defense systems and has reached an agreement for the procurement of the Russian S-400 systems at a time when the country needed the equipment amid increasing risks on its border but could not find support from its allies, the president said on Feb. 18 at a rally in the southwestern province of Burdur.
“We asked Western allies for the delivery of air defense systems, but the existing systems were withdrawn let alone giving a new one,” Erdoğan said, referring to the U.S.’s Patriot systems deployed in southern Turkey to protect its borders from threats it says it feels exposed to across the Syrian border.
Erdoğan did not directly point to the U.S., but insinuated that “Turkey’s ally” was trying to convince it to change its mind on the issue of the Russian missile defense systems.
“You don’t provide us joint production and financial support,” Erdoğan said, referring to Turkey’s ongoing talks with the U.S. to purchase the American Patriot air defense systems which Washington conditioned for Ankara to abandon the S-400 systems.
“It’s unacceptable to criticize Turkey with this argument,” he said.
Slamming the U.S.’s arms support to the YPG in Syria, he said: “You deliver 22,000-23,000 trucks of arms to terrorists, but don’t give me when asked even when I say I’d pay for them. You give them free of charge. What kind of an alliance is this, what kind of a NATO alliance? If our demands are not met, we will take steps.”
Erdoğan also urged the U.S. not to link the issue of the procurement of the Russian missile defense system with a deal on the Syrian city of Manbij. “We will never accept to associate this issue with the steps we agreed to take in Syria. We expect the administration of Manbij to be left to its locals. We expect [the U.S.] to end support to the terrorists in the east of Euphrates,” he said, referring to the YPG’s presence in the region.
He reiterated Turkey’s plans to launch a military offensive in the east of Euphrates.
“Those who come from thousands of kilometers away for [military] operations for their own security see themselves as the rightful owners. I have a 911-kilometer border; I’m under threat at all times. Will I not interfere?” he said.
Erdoğan’s stern warnings came at a time when Washington mounts pressure on Ankara to give up the deal with Russia on the S-400 systems in return for the Patriot missile systems to meet the country’s defense requirements.
The U.S. has conveyed its proposals for the Patriots, but the plan does not propose a joint production or assistance in credit loans at the moment.