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Turkey Dismisses U.S. Warning Against Buying Russian Missile System

A Russian S-400 air-defense system
A Russian S-400 air-defense system

Turkey has largely dismissed a warning from the new U.S. secretary of state against buying Russia's S-400 missile defense system, saying the deal is largely done and will not be reversed.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on the sidelines of a NATO meeting in Brussels on April 27 told his Turkish counterpart that the United States was "seriously concerned" over Ankara's decision to buy Russian weapons that are not compatible with NATO's defense systems, U.S. officials said.

U.S. officials said Pompeo warned Turkey that countries that purchase military hardware from Russia risk running afoul of new sanctions the United States imposed last year on Russia's military and defense industries.

But Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu shortly afterward told Turkish broadcasters that the $2.5 billion purchase of S-400s was signed in December and was "a done deal."

He said Russia, in fact, was "speeding up the process" of delivering the missile systems at Turkey's request.

"We have completed the S-400 process. That is a done deal," he said, telling broadcasters that Turkey would not be deterred by the threat of sanctions.

"The 'I will impose sanctions if you buy' approach will not affect Turkey," he said. "Turkey will not accept this."

Cavusoglu said Turkey was open to purchasing other weapons from NATO members, however.

"We need more air defense. We can discuss what we can do for further purchases," he said. "If we are going to discuss what we can do together in the future, we are in."

Turkey's plans to purchase weapons from Russia has unnerved some NATO members, which have been building up forces on NATO's eastern flank because of what they perceive as a growing threat from Russia.

Turkey's stance risks triggering a backlash in the U.S. Congress, where many legislators are concerned about not only Erdogan's increasingly friendly stance toward Russia but his jailing of political opponents, journalists, and academics.

On April 26, three U.S. senators introduced a measure to block the sale of F-35 fighters to Turkey over what they said was Erdogan's "path of reckless governance and disregard for the rule of law."

Turkey plans to buy more than 100 of the F-35s. The bill would not only block the sales but would restrict Ankara's access to intellectual property and technical data needed to maintain and support the fighters.

Washington and Turkey are longstanding allies but tensions have risen recently over a number of matters, including U.S. support for Kurdish forces in Syria and Turkey's forays into Syria to attack those U.S.-allied forces.

Turkish leaders have said they are buying the Russian weapons system in part to counter "threats from Kurdish and Islamist militants at home and conflicts across its borders in Syria and Iraq."

With reporting by AFP and Reuters
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