A high-ranking Russian military figure says Moscow plans to sign a new contract with Turkey to supply new batteries of the advanced Russian-made S-400 missile defense systems to Turkey in the first half of 2020.
“We hope that in the first half of 2020 we will sign contract documents. However, I want to emphasize that military-technical cooperation with Turkey is not limited to the supply of S-400s. We have big plans ahead,” Russia’s RIA Novosti news agency quoted the chief executive of Russia’s state-owned arms trade company Rosoboronexport, Aleksandr Mikheev, as saying on Tuesday.
He went on to say that Ankara has an option for another S-400 regiment, and has already received the terms of reference from Moscow.
Mikheev noted that the terms of reference provide for the technical support of the project by the Turkish side, including partial localization of the production of individual elements of the system.
He, however, stopped short of providing any information about what elements and in what volumes would be manufactured in Turkey.
Mikheev also said Russia and Turkey were discussing the financial side of the new agreement.
The remarks come only two days after Turkish media outlets reported that Turkey was set to test its S-400 missile defense system despite repeated warnings from Washington that it could lead to sanctions.
CNN Turk television news network, citing the governor’s office in the capital Ankara as saying, reported on Sunday that the Turkish military planes, including F-16 fighter jets, would conduct low- and high-altitude flights over the city on Monday and Tuesday as part of “anti-air defense system tests.”
Turkey’s Milliyet newspaper also confirmed that the flights aimed to test the S-400 radar system.
Pompeo: Turkey’s test of Russian weapons system ‘concerning’
Also on Tuesday, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo described Turkey’s test of its new S-400 missile system as “concerning,” but added that talks between Washington and Ankara to resolve the issue were still underway.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks to the media in the briefing room at the State Department, in Washington, DC, on November 26, 2019. (Photo by AFP)
Speaking at a news conference, Pompeo said the United States has made it clear to Turkey that Washington wants to see Ankara move away from full operation of the system.
“Yes it is concerning,” Pompeo said, when he was asked about the reports of Turkey carrying out tests with its S-400 system.
“We are hopeful. We are still talking to the Turks, still trying to figure out our way through this thing,” he said.
Turkey’s Defense Ministry announced in a statement on September 15 that the delivery of the second battery of S-400 missile defense systems has been completed at Murted Airfield Command, located 35 kilometers (22 miles) northwest of the capital Ankara, and that the systems would become operational in April 2020.
The first part of the S-400 delivery was completed in late July. Russia delivered 30 planeloads of S-400 hardware and equipment – as part of the initial batch – to Murted Airfield Command.
Ankara and Washington have been at loggerheads over Turkey’s purchase of the S-400 systems, which the United States says are not compatible with NATO defenses and poses a threat to Lockheed Martin F-35 stealth fighter jets.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusglu told CNN Turk in an exclusive interview in mid-September that S-400 missile systems would be activated despite repeated US warnings.
“They (US officials) told us ‘don’t activate them and we can sort this out’, but we told them that we didn’t buy these systems as a prop,” the top Turkish diplomat said, adding that Turkey would be open to buying US-made Patriot surface-to-air missile systems as well.
On September 9, US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Donald Trump’s administration was considering imposing sanctions on Turkey over purchase of S-400 systems, but no decisions have been made yet.
Cavusoglu told private Turkish-language TGRT Haber television news network in an exclusive interview back on July 22 that his country would take retaliatory measures in case the United States slapped sanctions on Ankara over the Russian-made systems.
“If the United States portrays an adversarial attitude towards us, we will take retaliatory measures, as we’ve told them. This is not a threat or a bluff. We are not a country that will bow down to those who show an animosity towards Turkey,” he said.
Cavusoglu added that he did not expect the US administration to take such an action.
The White House said on July 17 that it was no longer possible for Turkey to be involved in the program for the F-35 stealth jets after parts of S-400 began arriving in Ankara.
It also said it would impose sanctions on Turkey under the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA).
The US Congress passed the CAATSA against Russia in August 2017 over allegations of interfering in the 2016 presidential election. The law, among other things, imposes sanctions on countries and companies that engage in contracts to purchase weaponry from Russia.
Moscow and Ankara finalized an agreement on the delivery of the S-400 in December 2017.
Back in April 2018, Erdogan and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin said in Ankara that they had agreed to expedite the delivery of the S-400. At the time, it was said that the delivery could be made between late 2019 and early 2020.
A number of NATO member states have criticized Turkey for purchase of the S-400, arguing the missile batteries are not compatible with those of the military alliance.
They also argue that the purchase could jeopardize Ankara’s acquisition of F-35 fighter jets and possibly result in US sanctions.
The S-400 is an advanced Russian missile system designed to detect, track, and destroy planes, drones, or missiles as far as 402 kilometers away. It has previously been sold only to China and India.
Ankara is striving to boost its air defense, particularly after Washington decided in 2015 to withdraw its Patriot surface-to-air missile system from Turkish border with Syria, a move that weakened Turkey’s air defense.
Before gravitating towards Russia, the Turkish military reportedly walked out of a $3.4-billion contract for a similar Chinese system. The withdrawal took place under purported pressure from Washington.