İsmail Demir, the head of Turkey’s Presidency of the Defense Industry (SSB), has said Turkey is not thinking of abandoning its Russian S-400 missile system despite suggestions by the US that it send the weapons to Ukraine for help in its defense against Russia, according to a Russian newspaper.
“This is not a matter of discussion for us. This issue was discussed extensively in the past, and we are continuing our cooperation with the Russian Federation,” Demir said in remarks published by Izvestia.
Demir said Turkey can determine its own policies and the path it will take.
His remarks came amid recent reports suggesting that United States has informally raised with Turkey the unlikely possibility of sending its S-400 missile defense system to Ukraine to help it fight invading Russian forces.
US officials have floated the suggestion over the past month with their Turkish counterparts, but no specific or formal request was made, sources familiar with the matter told Reuters earlier this week. They said it also came up briefly during Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman’s visit to Turkey earlier this month.
The Biden administration has been asking allies who have been using Russian-made equipment and systems including S-300s and S-400s to consider transferring them to Ukraine as it tries to fend off a Russian invasion that began on Feb. 24.
The idea, which analysts said was sure to be shot down by Turkey, was part of a wider discussion between Sherman and Turkish officials about how the United States and its allies can do more to support Ukraine and on how to improve bilateral ties.
Despite warnings from the United States and other NATO allies, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan brokered a deal worth $2.5 billion with Russian President Vladimir Putin for the S-400 missile system in 2017.
Turkey started taking delivery of the first S-400s in July 2019 despite Washington’s warnings and the threat of US sanctions. In response, Washington removed Turkey from the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program, in which Ankara was a manufacturer and a buyer. Turkey has not yet used the missile system since its purchase.
The S-400, a mobile surface-to-air missile system, could pose a risk to the NATO alliance as well as to the F-35, America’s most expensive weapons platform, according to Turkey’s Western allies.
Washington imposed sanctions in December 2020 on Turkey’s military procurement agency for its purchase of the system under the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act, or CAATSA, which mandates penalties for transactions deemed harmful to US interests.
SSB chief Demir and three other officials were targeted by the sanctions, which include a ban on all US export licenses and authorizations to SSB as well as asset freezes and visa restrictions on Demir and the other individuals.
Washington still hopes to persuade its ally to “walk away” from the Russian system, and calls to this effect have increased following the launch of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.