Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar has confirmed that Russian-made S-400 missile defense systems were tested last week, adding that they won't be integrated into NATO infrastructure.
Speaking to Bloomberg ahead of a NATO defense ministers meeting on Oct. 22, Akar dismissed allies' criticism on the tests that were carried out in the Black Sea province of Sinop.
"Every defense procurement includes tests and system controls," he said.
Turkey is thought to have last week carried out its pledge to test the S-400 missiles it bought from Moscow in 2019. While that fits with President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s regional projection of Turkish power, it was also likely a calibrated snub to the U.S., which for years has refused to comply with Turkey’s conditions for purchasing its Patriot alternative.
The S-400s won’t be integrated into NATO’s command-and-control infrastructure, Akar said, but rather "used as a standalone system similar to the use of Russian-made S-300 weapons that exist within NATO."
That was an apparent reference to Greece, a traditional rival that’s locked in disputes with Turkey over energy finds in the eastern Mediterranean and the future of divided Cyprus, and has the missiles in its armory.NATO calls any Turkish test of S-400 missile defense systems 'regrettable'
Akar also said that Turkey is sticking to its demands that the U.S. transfer missile technology and share production for Ankara.
So far, "only Russia has responded to Turkey’s needs suitably," Akar said.
Russia’s muscle-flexing in eastern Europe in recent years has prompted NATO to step up its defense posture, and the bloc is adamant that Turkey find alternatives to its Russian technology.
“We, along with our whole NATO alliance, have done everything we could to divert Turkey from buying a missile defense system by our acknowledged adversary Russia,” Kay Bailey Hutchison, U.S. ambassador to the alliance, told an online press conference in Brussels Oct. 21.
"That they have tested a S-400 Russian system within our NATO alliance is very troubling for all of us.”
It’s especially worried that the advanced S-400 would enable Moscow to gather intelligence on the F-35 stealth fighter made by Lockheed Martin Corp. The U.S. has suspended Turkey from co-production of the plane as punishment for taking delivery of the missiles and raised the specter of economic sanctions if they were activated.Reuters claims video shows missile fired where Turkey cleared way for S-400 test, prompting US warning
U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Chair Jim Risch said this week that additional sanctions against Turkey for testing the S-400s were at the top of his list for after the presidential election.
With positions seemingly far apart, Akar said Turkey is continuing talks for a missile-defense system made by the French-Italian consortium Eurosam, and could buy the U.S. Patriot under the “right conditions.” He alluded, however, to the opposition in Congress toward a deal with Turkey.
“If you are selling a system, it is your duty to persuade whoever necessary and deliver the system,” he said.
The S-400 row is just the latest flashpoint in Turkey’s relations with its allies in recent years. Others are rooted in the war in Syria and Washington’s refusal to extradite Islamic preacher Fethullah Gülen, who is widely believed to have orchestrated the July 15, 2016 failed coup attempt.
But the Russia link has sparked concerns that Turkey’s determination to play a bigger role in its neighborhood is loosening its bonds to the West. Akar said the Russian missiles were a necessity and didn’t mean Ankara was drifting away from NATO.
Turkey’s fulfilling all the responsibilities expected of members, he said, including spending 2% of its GDP on defense. But it wants allies to “understand and address its security concerns.”Russia has never viewed Turkey as its strategic ally: Lavrov