The first shipment of a Russian missile defense system has arrived in Turkey, the Middle-Eastern nation’s Defense Ministry confirmed on Friday — this could potentially trigger U.S. sanctions and a standoff with the Trump administration.
A follow-up second shipment of equipment needed to make the S-400s operational was received by Turkey on Saturday.
The US had made it very clear that it wanted Turkey to pull out of the deal to buy the advanced surface-to-air missile system – the first such move between a NATO member and Russia. Washington warned Ankara that it would face economic sanctions if it did not heed, reportedly costing more than $2 billion.
US defense officials fear that Russian technicians could test their S-400 on US-made F-35 fighter jets (which Turkey possesses) and gauge its vulnerabilities.
The US has already halted deliveries of new aircraft to Turkey and suspended training of Turkish pilots.
Turkey has argued that the two systems would be located in separate locations, and claims that the US was slow to offer them an alternative missile defence shield.
The S-400 is flexible and can be used with several different types of rockets. It also has an advantage outside the battlefield — it is more affordable (at least half as much as the comparable US system Patriot-2).
“President Erdogan was given a very clear choice. Unfortunately, he has clearly made the wrong one,” said the US House Foreign Affairs Committee in a joint statement.
Tensions between the US and Turkey are not a new phenomenon. Last year, the US imposed sanctions on Turkey over its detention of an American pastor, triggering a currency crisis. The sanctions were lifted upon the pastor’s release.