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21 Aug, 2018 15:04

Russia will deliver first batch of S-400s to Turkey in 2019 – arms export company

Russia will deliver first batch of S-400s to Turkey in 2019 – arms export company

Turkey will receive its first batch of S-400 air defense systems next year under a deal with Russia, arms exporter Rosoboronexport said. Washington pressured Ankara to drop the purchase amid tensions between the two NATO allies.

“The contract [on the S-400 supplies to Turkey] will be implemented within the agreed time limits. In 2019 we will start implementing the contract,” the company’s director general and CEO Aleksandr Mikheev told reporters on Tuesday. 

Ankara made the first payment for the air defense systems last year, after Moscow and Turkey signed the $2.5-billion deal on the procurement of Russian-made S-400 Triumph anti-aircraft weapons (NATO reporting name SA-21 Growler). The US pressured Ankara to abort the purchase, claiming that the system would cause interoperability problems with NATO systems.

The move has also caused concerns from the military alliance itself, with Allied Air Commander General Tod Wolters stating that the systems might expose weaknesses of F-35s. 

Washington had been threatening to halt delivery of the F-35 stealth fighters for months if Ankara finalized the deal with Russia. The 2019 National Defense Authorization Act, passed by the Senate earlier this month, made the warning real as the document bars the supply of the jets until the Pentagon and the State Department produce a report on the US “military and diplomatic presence” in the country.

However, Turkey has been pushing back against US pressure and repeatedly defended its decision on the S-400s, with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan stressing that he does not want the country to depend on Washington, which has been turning down Turkey’s requests for years. 

“We will not just buy the S-400s and place them in a storehouse. We will use them if need be,” Erdogan said in June.

The spat between the two NATO allies goes beyond the military realm as they have also locked horns over the detention of American pastor Andrew Brunson. Brunson has been held in Turkey since 2016 over alleged involvement in the failed coup attempt against Erdogan’s government, and is facing 35 years in prison.

In the recent escalation of tensions over the arrest, US President Donald Trump doubled steel and aluminum tariffs on Turkish imports up to 50 and 20 percent respectively, on August 10. Ankara retaliated by raising tariffs on 22 American-made products ranging from cars to tobacco and also filed a complaint with the World Trade Organization (WTO) against the US move. 

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