Recep Tayyip Erdogan remains firm in his decision to purchase a second batch of Russia's s-400 anti-missile air defence system. Warnings from Washington have failed to change the Turkish leader's mind, who claims he has not been able to reach an agreement with any NATO country. Ankara's move could further widen a rift in the organisation that has already been severely weakened by the Indo-Pacific defence agreement announced just over a week ago between the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia.
Joe Biden's government sees the s-400s as a major threat to its F-35 aircraft. However, Erdogan, in line with what has been and continues to be his leadership of Turkey, has turned a deaf ear to the warnings. He even believes that 'in the future, no one can interfere in terms of what kind of defence systems we acquire, from which country and at what level'. He adds that "no one can interfere with that. We are the only ones to make such decisions", showing a strong response to the warnings sent from the United States.
It is important to remember that the first acquisition of this defence system cost Turkey a sanction from the Americans. The Turkish Defence Industry Directorate, its head Ismail Demir and three other employees were sanctioned in December last year for the purchase of the first batch of S-400s. The US State Department's spokesperson "urges Turkey at all levels and opportunities not to withhold the S-400 system and to refrain from purchasing any additional Russian military equipment", something Ankara seems to have completely ignored.
What is - or at least should be - more worrying for Erdogan's government is that Washington, like Turkey, has not changed its position: "We continue to make clear to Turkey that any significant new purchases of Russian arms would risk triggering CAATSA 231 sanctions in addition to those imposed in December 2020," the State Department says. However, Turkey has no intention of backing down, especially when next Wednesday the Turkish president will meet with Vladimir Putin and Ebrahim Raisi, his Russian and Iranian counterparts respectively, to discuss the Syrian conflict in particular.
Pentagon spokesman John Kirby was quick to respond to Erdogan's comments about the impossibility of reaching agreements with any NATO country. Kirby said that "Turkey has had multiple opportunities over the past decade to purchase the US Patriot defence system, and instead chose to purchase the S-400, which provides Russia with revenue, access and influence". That choice has been denied by Erdogan, who has even accused the US of failing to deliver the F-35s for which the Turks paid $1.4 billion.
The Turkish president insists that "President Biden has explained everything to him", which, even if that were the case, has not changed the US government's opinion. The situation between the US and Turkey is now complex at a time when the conflict in Afghanistan is still very much alive. The relationship between the Turks and the Taliban is not to Washington's liking, although John Kirby himself has assured that he considers Turkey a friend and ally "even when they disagree". That friendly relationship now hangs in the balance with the shadow of new sanctions looming over Turkey.