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Turkey defies US as Russian S-400 missile defence arrives

Turkey’s purchase of the Russian S-400 missile system was “not a choice but a necessity” because it is under serious threat, its defence minister told the United States.

The comments came after a second shipment of equipment needed to make the S-400s operational was delivered to Turkey on Saturday.

The US has strongly urged Turkey to pull back from the deal – the first such move between a NATO member and Russia – warning Ankara it will face economic sanctions, reportedly costing more than $2bn.

Defence Minister Hulusi Akar told his American counterpart Mark Esper by phone on Friday buying the controversial defence system does not mean a change in the country’s strategic orientation.

Turkey was under “serious threat” and its acquisition of S-400s was necessary, Akar said, adding it was obliged to take measures against “intensive attacks” from the Syrian border as it is a priority.

The first equipment for the advanced air-defence system was delivered to the Murted airbase outside the capital on Friday, the defence ministry said, adding deliveries would continue in the coming days.

“Delivery of S-400 Long Range Air and Missile Defence Systems resumed today,” a defence ministry statement said on Saturday. “The fourth Russian plane carrying S-400 parts landed at Murted Airport outside Ankara.”

The US was publicly silent on how it would respond to the Russian delivery.

Washington fears if Ankara integrates the S-400s into its defences, data about the US-built F-35 fighter jet could leak back to the Russians.

Akar told Esper that Turkey was still assessing a bid to acquire the US Patriot air-defence system, and a deterioration of bilateral relations would not serve the interests of either country.

US officials urged Turkey to buy Patriot missiles rather than the S-400s from Moscow.

But Ankara said it was the United States that refused to sell Patriots to Turkey, and that led it to seek other vendors. Russia offered a better deal, including technology transfers, it added.

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