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Turkey could buy more Russian missiles, in defiance of US warnings

Asked about purchasing more S-400 systems, Turkish President Erdogan says Ankara will make its own defense choices

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan addresses the 76th Session of the United Nations General Assembly, on September 21, 2021, at the UN headquarters. (Eduardo Munoz/Pool Photo via AP)
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan addresses the 76th Session of the United Nations General Assembly, on September 21, 2021, at the UN headquarters. (Eduardo Munoz/Pool Photo via AP)

ISTANBUL — Turkey’s president has said that he would consider buying a second Russian missile system in defiance of strong objections by the United States.

In an interview with American broadcaster CBS News, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that Turkey would have to decide its defense systems on its own.

Speaking to correspondent Margaret Brennan in New York this past week, Erdogan explained that Turkey wasn’t given the option to buy American-made Patriot missiles, and that the US hadn’t delivered on an order of F-35 stealth jets, despite a payment of $1.4 billion.

Erdogan’s comments came in excerpts released in advance of the full interview being broadcast on Sunday.

NATO member Turkey was kicked out of the F-35 program and defense officials were sanctioned, after it bought the Russian-made S-400 missile defense system.

The US strongly objects to the use of Russian systems within NATO and says that it poses a threat to the F-35s. Turkey maintains the S-400s could be used independently without being integrated into NATO systems and therefore pose no risk.

The US also sanctioned Turkey in 2020 for its purchase, under a 2017 law aimed at pushing back Russian influence. The move was the first time that the law, known as CAATSA, was used to penalize a US ally.

But Erdogan has remained defiant. “Of course, of course, yes,” Erdogan said, after stating Turkey would make its own defense choices, in response to Brennan’s question on whether Turkey would buy more S-400s.

Military vehicles and equipment, part of the S-400 air defense system, are unloaded from a Russian transport aircraft, at Murted military airport in Ankara, Turkey, on July 12, 2019. (Turkish Defence Ministry via AP, Pool)

Before departing New York, Erdogan told journalists that relations with US President Joe Biden hadn’t started well, despite what he called his good work with previous US leaders during his 19-years at Turkey’s helm.

“I cannot honestly say that there is a healthy process in Turkish-American relations,” state-run Anadolu news agency quoted Erdogan as saying on Thursday.

The two leaders didn’t meet for bilateral talks on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly. Since Biden’s victory in the US presidential election, they have met only in June at a NATO summit, where they discussed the possibility of Turkey securing and operating the Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul. But that notion has been shelved since the Taliban took control of Afghanistan.

Erdogan also told Turkish media that Turkey would buy new missile defense systems if needed and that it was already developing its own.

US President Joe Biden (right) speaks with Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan during a plenary session at a NATO summit in Brussels, on June 14, 2021. (AP Photo/ Olivier Matthys, Pool)

The issue is one of several sticking points in Turkish-American relations, which also include Turkey’s human rights record, US support for Syrian Kurdish fighters who Turkey considers terrorists, and the continued US residency of a Muslim cleric accused of plotting a failed coup attempt against Erdogan’s government in 2016.

Erdogan is scheduled to meet Russian President Vladimir Putin on September 29 in Sochi, Russia.

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