US blasts reported test of Turkey’s S-400 air defense system
The Pentagon on Friday blasted Turkey over reports that the NATO member tested its Russian-made S-400 air defense system, which the U.S. said “risks serious consequences” for the allies’ relationship.
The test, reported by Turkish media, was said to be a military test-fire in Sinop, a city on the Black Sea coast. There is also an alleged amateur video of the test showing a white vapor trail rocketing into the sky.
The U.S. Defense Department “is aware of reports of a possible test of the S-400 air defense system by Turkey,” and if accurate, “strongly condemns the test,” top Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Hoffman said in a statement.
Turkey in summer 2019 accepted the S-400 anti-aircraft surface-to-air missile system, which the United States fears could be used to glean sensitive information from F-35 technology.
Ankara went ahead with the deal despite repeated warnings from Washington that the sale would mean a removal from the F-35 program, which the Pentagon made good on.
“We have been clear: an operational S-400 system is not consistent with Turkey’s commitments as a U.S. and NATO Ally,” Hoffman said Friday.
“We object to Turkey’s purchase of the system and are deeply concerned with reports that Turkey is bringing it into operation. It should not be activated. Doing so risks serious consequences for our security relationship,” he continued.
He added that the S-400 “continues to be a barrier to progress elsewhere in the bilateral relationship.”
U.S. officials have also threatened sanctions under the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act if the S-400 was activated. The act requires sanctions on those who do business with Russia’s defense sector.
Turkey, meanwhile, has claimed that it turned to the Kremlin system because the U.S. wouldn’t sell it the Patriot missile defense system.
The U.S. had offered to sell Turkey the Patriot since the Obama administration, but would not share sensitive technology Turkey wants so it can build its own weapons.
Following the reports, Senate Foreign Relations Committee ranking member Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) took the opportunity to bash the Trump administration for failing to invoke sanctions over the S-400 sale.
“[Turkish President Recep Tayyip] Erdoğan only responds to actions, not words. In July 2019, Turkey took delivery of the S-400 in clear violation of U.S. sanctions mandated by the Countering America’s Adversaries through Sanctions law. The Trump Administration has ignored the law, weakening our hand against Putin,” Menendez said in a statement. “It has also emboldened Erdoğan, leading to today’s test.”
“President Trump’s failure to follow the law and his affinity for Recep Tayyip Erdoğan pose a serious threat to our national security and that of our NATO allies and partners in Europe,” he added. “Turkey must be sanctioned immediately for its purchase and use of this system.”
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