Russia delivers missile system to Turkey

A photograph from the Turkish Defence Ministry showing a Russian military cargo plane arriving in the country yesterday with the first parts of a Russian S-400 anti-aircraft missile system. PHOTO: EPA-EFE
A photograph from the Turkish Defence Ministry showing a Russian military cargo plane arriving in the country yesterday with the first parts of a Russian S-400 anti-aircraft missile system. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

ISTANBUL • Russia has begun delivery of an advanced missile defence system to Turkey, a move expected to trigger American sanctions against a Nato ally and drive a wedge into the heart of the Western military alliance.

The first parts of the S-400 air defence system were flown to a military air base near the capital Ankara, Turkey's Defence Ministry said yesterday, sealing the country's deal with Russia which Washington had struggled for months to prevent.

The United States said the Russian military hardware was not compatible with Nato systems and that the acquisition may lead to Ankara's expulsion from an F-35 fighter jet programme.

Investors in Turkey have been unsettled by the deal. The Turkish lira weakened as far as 5.728 against the US dollar from 5.683 before the ministry announced the arrival of the S-400 consignment at the Murted Air Base, north-west of Ankara. The main Istanbul share index fell 1.4 per cent.

"The delivery of parts belonging to the system will continue in the coming days," Turkey's Defence Industry Directorate said.

"Once the system is completely ready, it will begin to be used in a way determined by the relevant authorities," it added.

An unnamed military-diplomatic source was cited by Russia's TASS news agency as saying a second delivery would be carried out by plane soon. A third delivery - of 120 guided missiles - would be carried out by ship at the end of the summer.

Twenty Turkish servicemen received training from Russia in May and June, and 80 more Turkish servicemen will be trained to use the S-400 system, the source added.

Turkey has said the system is a strategic defence requirement, particularly to secure its southern borders with Syria and Iraq. Ankara also said that when it made the deal with Russia for the S-400 system, the US and Europe had not presented a viable alternative.

US President Donald Trump said Turkey had not been treated fairly, but did not rule out sanctions.

Under legislation known as Countering America's Adversaries Through Sanctions Act, which targets purchases of military equipment from Russia, Mr Trump could select five of 12 possible measures.

These range from banning visas and denying access to the US-based Export-Import Bank, to the harsher options of blocking transactions with the US financial system and denying export licences.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 13, 2019, with the headline 'Russia delivers missile system to Turkey'. Print Edition | Subscribe