“What Mr. Mitchell has said about Ankara risking being subject to sanctions if it goes ahead with the S-400 purchase from Russia is a typical example of attempted blackmail with the intention of giving American companies an unfair advantage in market competition,” Lavrov said at a Friday press conference following talks with Austrian Foreign Minister Karin Kneissl.
The Russian foreign minister referred to a statement made earlier this week by US Assistant Secretary of State Wess Mitchell. “Ankara should be mindful of the risks in making strategic concessions to Moscow in order to achieve its tactical objectives in Syria. Ankara claims to have agreed to purchase the Russian S-400 missile system, which could potentially lead to sanctions under section 231 of CAATSA and adversely impact Turkey’s participation in the F-35 program,” Mitchell said in a speech before the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
Earlier, officials from the US and other NATO nations said Turkey’s use of the S-400 system would compromise NATO’s communications and cause interoperability problems.
They also hinted that if the deal goes ahead, Ankara can face sanctions under the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA), which was signed in August and aimed, in particular, at hindering Russian arms exports.
In December last year, Moscow and Ankara signed a $2.5-billion agreement on the procurement of Russia’s S-400 Triumph anti-aircraft system (NATO reporting name SA-21 Growler).
Supplies of the S-400 complexes to Turkey are scheduled to begin in early 2020. However, after Sergey Lavrov held talks with Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu earlier this month, he announced that Moscow was ready to fulfill Ankara’s request to speed up delivery of the weapons.
An S-400 air defense missile system at the rehearsal of the Victory Day Parade in Vladivostok © Sputnik
Threat to Turkey comes from ‘strategic partners’ – Erdogan
“We cannot buy weapons from the US with our money, but unfortunately, the US and coalition forces give these weapons, this ammunition, to terrorist organizations for free,” President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said, in an interview on Turkish channel NTV.
“So where does the threat come from? It comes primarily from strategic partners,” he stated, emphasizing that Washington continues to funnel truck- and planeloads of weapons into Northern Syria.
“The US sent 5,000 trucks loaded with weapons to northern Syria,” the Turkish leader said, reiterating concerns he repeatedly voiced before, especially following the launch of military operations in northern Syria.
On January 20, Turkey launched a cross-border offensive into Syria with the aim of dislodging Kurdish “terrorists” from Afrin. The assault, codenamed Operation Olive Branch, has strained relations between Washington and Ankara – which has since threatened to expand the operation to Manbij and beyond. The Kurdish YPG are key US allies on the ground in this area, but Ankara views them as an offshoot of the terrorist-designated Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
Washington, for its part, has also been critical of Ankara’s growing “misalignment” with the West and of its cozier relations with Russia and Iran. Ankara’s decision to buy S-400 air defense systems from Russia exposes Turkey to possible US sanctions, Assistant Secretary of State Wess Mitchell recently warned, noting that “it is in the American national interest to see Turkey remain strategically and politically aligned with the West.”
“The ease with which Turkey brokered arrangements with the Russian military to facilitate the launch of its Operation Olive Branch in the Afrin district –arrangements to which America was not privy– is gravely concerning,” he said. “Turkey lately has increased its engagement with Russia and Iran.
TAP – How long before the US/NATO make war on Turkey? I guess that’s what ‘threat’ means.
Extended Stay: US Carrier May Reportedly Remain in East Med. to ‘Contain’ Russia
Earlier this week, a US strike group led by the aircraft carrier Harry S. Truman entered the Mediterranean Sea, six days after the US, Britain and France launched a missile attack on Syria.
The US military is debating whether to keep its aircraft carrier Harry S. Truman near the Middle East instead of rotating it after a set period of time, according to the Defense News website.
It quoted US Defense Department officials as saying that the move is still under discussion and that it “would be a response to “increasingly assertive Russian activities in the region,” while also being in line with Washington’s new National Defense Strategy.
At the same time, Defense News reported, the Harry S. Truman staying on in Europe “would be a major departure from the normal rotational presence missions the Navy has conducted since Operation Desert Storm, in which a trip through ‘The Ditch’ is almost a foregone conclusion.”
Additionally, the aircraft carrier’s deployment in the Mediterranean should “serve as an imposing reminder” of US President Donald Trump’s warning against the alleged use of chemical weapons by the Syrian government forces, according to the Defense News.
Leaving a Norfolk base on April 11, the USS Harry S. Truman carrier strike group entered the Mediterranean Sea on April 19, almost a week after the US, France and Britain launched missile strikes on Syria’s military and civil facilities in response to the alleged April 7 chemical weapons attack in the Damascus suburb of Douma.
The Russian Defense Ministry said that 71 missiles out of 103 were intercepted by Syria’s air defense systems; Russian air defense units did not participate in the interception because none of the missiles had entered their areas of responsibility.In another development last week, Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov told a news briefing that the ministry had enough evidence to conclude that the planned provocation using chemical weapons was carried out in Douma in Eastern Ghouta on April 7.
According to him, the provocation was organized by Western-backed NGOs, including the White Helmets, in a bid to prompt the US to stage a missile strike on Syria.