WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Turkey needs to “get rid of” the Russian S-400 missile defense
system it purchased, a senior State Department official said on Thursday, to overcome
a standoff with Washington, which says the procurement poses a threat to NATO defense
Ankara and Washington have been at loggerheads over Turkey’s purchase of the S-400
system, which Washington says is not compatible with NATO defenses and poses a threat
to its F-35 stealth fighter jets.
U.S. President Donald Trump hosted his Turkish counterpart Tayyip Erdogan at the
White House last week for a meeting, which Trump described as “wonderful.” However,
it was not clear if the two NATO allies made any breakthrough on the S-400 impasse.
“There is room for Turkey to come back to the table. They know that to make this
work they need to either destroy or return or somehow get rid of the S-400,” the
official told reporters at a briefing.
The United States earlier this year suspended Turkey from the F-35 program, which
it was a buyer and producer of, to punish it for its purchase of the Russian systems
and warned of possible U.S. sanctions over the deal, although it has yet to impose
During last week’s meeting, Trump told Erdogan that Ankara needed to drop the S-400
system and that in return, U.S. was ready to sell Ankara U.S. Patriot systems.
But Erdogan, upon his return to Ankara, said he told Trump during talks that Turkey
would not give up on the Russian S-400 missile defenses and cited strong ties with
The official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said he was aware of Erdogan’s
“They (Turkey) know that they have the choice to move forward and the choice is to
rid themselves of the S-400 so that we can move forward,” he said, and added that
the risk of U.S. sanctions, under Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions
Act (CAATSA), was still a possibility.
“The timeline on CAATSA sanctions is not prescribed or absolute,” he said, adding
that it took Washington nine months to impose sanctions on China under the same law
over Beijing’s purchase of Russian fighter jets.
Ankara began receiving the S-400 system last July but it is not yet operational.
Reporting by Humeyra Pamuk; editing by Bill Berkrot and Bernadette Baum