- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Turkey’s foreign minister said Wednesday that Ankara’s purchase of a Russian-made S-400 missile defense system is a “done deal” despite strong objections from the Trump administration and other NATO allies.

Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu dismissed White House efforts to kill a deal to sell Turkey the U.S.-built F-35 Joint Strike Fighter as punishment for proceeding with the S-400 missile buy, saying the deal with Moscow was final.

“The S-400 deal is a done deal and we will not step back from this,” Mr. Cavusoglu said during a NATO event sponsored by the Atlantic Council. But the Turkish diplomat acknowledged the Russian deal “will have a negative impact on bilateral relations [with the U.S.], which we do not prefer.”

His comments come a day after acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan predicted Turkey would eventually abandon the Russian missile system, in favor of the American-made Patriot missile system. Turkey has said the U.S. has refused to guarantee access to the Patriot system.

The Trump administration, with bipartisan backing on Capitol Hill, has strongly opposed the S-400 deal, citing fears that mixing of the Russian weapon systems and the F-35 could give Moscow critical intelligence on the new jet’s capabilities and features. The Defense Department has already canceled all transfers of critical equipment for the F-35 related to the sale.

Turkey must choose,” Vice President Mike Pence said Wednesday at the same conference shortly after Mr. Cavusoglu spoke. “Does it want to remain a critical partner in the most successful military alliance in history or does it want to risk the security of that partnership by making such reckless decisions that undermine our alliance?”

Mr. Cavusoglu insisted the S-400 poses no security threat for NATO, although he revealed Turkey has proposed creating a joint technical team to work through any concerns.

“This is for our own use, this is a defense system,” he said. “…We made it very clear that this system will not see any NATO system, including F-35s.”

Moreover, the U.S. or any other ally does not have the right to determine how Turkey meets its national security needs, he said.

Turkey doesn’t have to choose between Russia and any others, and we don’t see our relationship with Russia as an alternative to others. Nobody, neither the West nor Russia, should ask us to choose,” Mr. Cavusoglu added.

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