By Nathan Morley
The Turkish Defence Ministry confirmed that the first batch of the Russian S-400 air defence system was delivered to an airbase north of Ankara on Friday. There will be more deliveries in the coming days.
Ankara and Moscow signed a U$2.5-billion deal for two batteries of the missiles in late 2017.
The S-400 is an advanced long-range anti-aircraft missile system, capable of destroying targets at a distance of up to 400 kilometres and a height of up to 30 kilometres.
Turkey is the first NATO member country to acquire it, prompting strong criticism from the United States. As the second largest member of NATO, this episode has plunged Ankara’s relations with the US and her Allies to a new low.
NATO expressed “concern” about the delivery, saying it had repeatedly warned that the Russian system was not compatible with the air defence system used by the Western Alliance.
Earlier this year, the Pentagon charged that that Turkey’s adoption of system could compromise NATO and cause security issues on F-35 jets and western defence systems. Furthermore, Washington threatened to suspend the sale of F-35 jets to Turkey unless it scrapped the deal.
But President Erdogan is not budging. He has refused to bow to American pressure – and the threat of economic sanctions – insisting that choosing which military hardware to purchase was a matter of national sovereignty.