The S-400 missile system. Photo: Visual China.

Turkey is on the edge of facing US sanctions in the face of a deadline for giving up Russian S-400 missile systems. On June 10, the Pentagon publicly stated that Turkey’s F-35 fighter jets would no longer be allowed to take part in  training exercises at Luke Air Force Base in Arizona. This is one of the latest developments in the tension between Washington and Ankara.

The US aims to influence Turkey with this sanction to withdraw its order of the S-400 defense system and then to proceed with purchasing the Patriot missile system from the United States instead.

Mike Andrews, a spokesman for the Pentagon, said at a press conference on June 10 that the Turkish pilots had been informed of the situation by the Department of Defense. He also warned that if Turkey does not change its policy, the US will gradually reduce its participation in the F-35 fighter-pilot training project.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has remained stern in the face of the American threats. The US also canceled the sale of F-35 jets to Turkey in retaliation.

In 2017, an agreement was signed in which Turkey agreed to purchase four S-400 missile systems from Russia for US$2.5 billion. At the same time, Turkey also had plans to purchase 100 F-35 stealth fighters from longtime ally the United States. However, the US is concerned that by owning both weapons systems, Turkey may be able to exploit any weaknesses of the United States’ key weapon.

Erdogan himself believes that he has no choice, as the defense agreement between Turkey and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization does not meet his country’s security needs. Other NATO partners besides the US have also not been willing to share technology with Turkey in the past.

The Americans had previously offered Turkey the Patriot missile system for $1 billion more than the four S-400 systems from Russia. Thus the agreement with Russia gives Turkey an affordable missile system as well as the sharing of relevant technology at a better price.

In addition, Turkey is reliant on Russia to support its interests in Syria. So it is highly unlikely that Turkey will put the S-400 order on hold in order to play both sides.

As of now, the biggest problem Turkey and the United States face is the lack of mutual trust. This problem can be traced back to 2014 when the administration of then-US president Barack Obama airdropped weapons to the Syrian Kurds – whom Turkey believes to be operating within a terrorist organization – to fight ISIS.

As the deadline of July 31 approaches, there is still time for Turkey to work around the ultimatum put forth by the United States.

This article was first published on and was translated by Kamaran Malik.

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