Turkey said U.S. pressure for it to scrap its arsenal of Russian S-400 air defence missiles risked backfiring.
The United States should compromise and foster strategic relations with its NATO ally, said Ibrahim Kalın, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s spokesperson and foreign policy adviser, in an interview with Bloomberg published on Monday.
“If another country comes to us with a maximalist position and demands, you know, ‘it’s either my way or the highway’, then that kind of attitude pushes you in other directions,” Kalın said.
The Pentagon and State Department have called on Turkey to abandon a battery of missiles purchased from Russia in 2019 and to scrap plans to buy more, saying the system could gather sensitive information on NATO’s defences, including the new F-35 stealth fighter jet. Turkey has been excluded from a programme to build and purchase the aircraft in response.
“The U.S. must understand Turkey’s security interests,” Kalın said. “We want to see concrete action by our allies.”
Turkey has called on the United States to enter talks concerning the circumstances under which the Russian missiles could be deployed and used. Its acquisition of the weapons has intensified concerns about a strategic drift towards Moscow.
Ankara says Washington should end its support for Kurdish fighters in Syria as part of any deal. It says the militants are inseparable from the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), an autonomy-seeking armed group in Turkey recognised as terrorist by the United States and the European Union.
“Our relationship can function in a very constructive way where we can empower each other mutually and can address joint issues or concerns together,” Kalın said.
President Joe Biden has yet to speak with Erdoğan, leaving him out of a bank of phone calls traditionally made by incoming U.S. presidents to key Western allies. As vice-president in the Obama administration, Biden criticised Erdoğan’s record on democracy, calling him an autocrat and saying he would back the opposition’s efforts to defeat him.
Biden will call Erdoğan “at some point”, White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters on Friday. The president has many world leaders he still needs to speak with and will venture to do so in the coming weeks and months, she said.
“To have that relationship working for both sides, it has to be based on mutual respect and mutual interests,” Kalın said. “We can resolve these issues through constructive dialogue, by being open and candid, but the U.S. policymakers need to understand how serious these issues are for us.”
Kalın said the issues “go to the very heart of our national security concerns. Turkey’s S-400 decision wasn’t taken overnight.”
The United States offered Turkey Patriot air defence missiles as a substitute for the S-400s on several occasions. But Turkey said the proposed deal did not include the technology transfers pledged by Russia.