“If US is to take weapons out of Syria, they can, but if they won’t, give them to Turkey, not terrorists,” President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said during a Turkish TV interview on Wednesday. It’s the latest moment wherein Turkey’s president has lashed out at Washington, and comes amidst tensions over the United States objecting to Russian S-400 anti-air defense systems being transferred to Turkey. Of that contentious debate, for which the US has held up delivery of F-35 stealth jets purchased previously by Turkey, Erdogan said emphatically, “this is over”.
He affirmed the Russian deal had already been inked with the first delivery expected in July. “We are an independent Turkey, we are not slaves,” he said to Turkish broadcaster Kanal 24. Thus it appears the imminent transfer of the S-400s is a done deal, perhaps also sealing future years of permanently damaged US-Turkey relations, especially as at the same time Turkey rejected the recent US offer to sell American-made Patriot defense systems.
The advanced Russian-made S-400 air defense system purchased by Turkey has been seen as a threat by the United States, given the potential for compromising the F-35 advanced radar evading and electronics capabilities.
The main argument for blocking the F-35 transfer is the fear that Russia would get access to the extremely advanced Joint Strike Fighter stealth aircraft, enabling Moscow to detect and exploit its vulnerabilities. Russia would ultimately learn how the S-400 could take out an F-35.
Meanwhile, the chief of US European Command, Army General Curtis Scaparrotti, told Congress on Tuesday that delivery to Turkey of Lockheed Martin’s F-35 Joint Strike Fighter should ultimately be cancelled if Turkey moves ahead with buying the S-400 systems from Russia. But it appears Erdogan’s “this is over” comment was directed at the continued congressional debate.
“We’re done, this is over,” Erdogan said during the interview. “The deal has been finalized.”
#CANLI Başkan @RT_Erdogan: S-400 konusunu biz bitirdik. Artık konuşmanın anlamı yok. Gerek Putin ile gerek Rusya ile bütün bunlar konuşuldu, anlaşıldı, imzalar atıldı #BaşkanÖzel https://t.co/VHYOZkOp1n pic.twitter.com/kvaOeVEdw5
— Star Gazete ?? (@stargazete) March 6, 2019