Amid tension between Turkey and the US over the purchase of Russian S-400 missile defense systems, Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar has said Ankara received an invitation to the Vostok 2018 military exercise organized by Russia.
Vostok 2018, which has been the largest military exercise since 1981, to be held Sept. 11-15, will involve around 300,000 personnel and include contingents from China and Mongolia.
“They will hold the Vostok 2018 exercise within days. They invited Turkey. We have been evaluating the offer,” Akar told journalists after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan asked him to brief the press on his plane while returning from a Syria meeting in Tehran participated in by Russian President Vladimir Putin and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on Friday.
Erdoğan has been mentioning the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), a Eurasian political, economic and military organization led by China and Russia, as an alternative for Turkey as Ankara’s relations worsen with the US and the European Union over his increasing autocratic tendencies and deteriorating human rights record in recent years.
Despite reactions from the US and NATO, Turkey last December announced that it had concluded an agreement with Russia for the purchase of two S-400 systems by early 2020.
In August the US Congress passed legislation suspending delivery to Turkey of F-35 jets, citing the S-400 purchase as well as Turkey’s detention of US citizens.