Defense

Erdoğan says Turkey plans to buy another Russian defense system

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said that his country is moving ahead with plans to purchase another Russian air defense system, despite warnings from the U.S. and other NATO allies that the move could have destabilizing consequences. 

In an interview with CBS News chief foreign affairs correspondent Margaret Brennan, Erdoğan claimed that Turkey had never received the F-35 jets it had purchased from the U.S. and was forced to seek out a Russian system following failed requests for the U.S.-made Patriot air defense system. 

The U.S. has disputed claims of failed requests regarding its Patriot air defense system. 

"Turkey had multiple opportunities over the last decade to purchase the Patriot defense system from the United States and instead chose to purchase the S-400, which provides Russia revenue, access and influence," Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said earlier this year, according to Air Force Magazine.

"I explained everything to President Biden," Erdoğan said in a segment of the interview slated to air in full on CBS's "Face the Nation" on Sunday.

The Trump administration in 2019 moved to suspend delivering F-35 fighter aircraft equipment to Turkey over its purchase of Russia's S-400 long-range air defense system. The U.S government has repeatedly warned that the Russian system could harm the NATO alliance through its ability to detect detailed information about F-35 jets. 

Brennan asked Erdoğan if he planned to purchase another round of S-400s.

The Turkish president responded, "In the future, nobody will be able to interfere in terms of what kind of defense systems we acquire, from which country, at what level." 

"Nobody can interfere with that," he added. "We are the only ones to make such decisions." 

"That sounds like a yes," Brennan replied.

Erdoğan responded, "Of course, of course, yes."

The Hill has reached out to the White House and Defense Department for comment. 

When Turkey unveiled its purchase of S-400s in 2019, then-chief Pentagon spokesman Charles Summers said in a statement, "The United States has been clear that Turkey's acquisition of the S-400 is unacceptable."

"We very much regret the current situation facing our F-35 partnership with Turkey, and the DoD is taking prudent steps to protect the shared investments made in our critical technology," he added. 

Erdoğan added in the interview that he plans to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin later this month to discuss a range of issues, including the ongoing conflict in Syria. 

The president said Turkey, whose forces have remained in the northern part of Syria to fight U.S.-allied Kurdish forces, would like to U.S. to remove its roughly 900 troops that remain in the country. 

Brennan went on to ask Erdoğan to comment on Biden's remarks to The New York Times editorial board in January 2020 that the Turkish president was an "autocrat" due to his continued efforts to expand his authority. 

Erdoğan told the CBS correspondent, "Mr. President's definition of an autocrat remains unknown to me. I don't know what he meant."

Updated 5:20 p.m.

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