- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 24, 2021

Turkey‘s purchase and installation of the Russian-made S-400 missile defense system is a “done deal” despite vehement U.S. objections, top Turkish officials said Wednesday, once again openly defying Washington and deepening a rift between the NATO allies.

At a meeting of NATO foreign ministers in Brussels, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu reportedly told U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken in no uncertain terms that Ankara will not change its mind.

“On the S-400s, we reminded them once again why Turkey had to buy them, and repeated that Turkey had bought them and this is a done deal,” he said, according to the al Jazeera news network.

The S-400 has driven a wedge between the U.S. and Turkey. After Turkey refused to budge from its intention to buy the Russian system, the Trump administration in 2019 retaliated by kicking Turkey out of its coveted role in the F-35 fighter jet program.

Pentagon officials have stressed that the S-400 and F-35 are incompatible and their joint use could lead to F-35 security vulnerabilities. Turkish pilots who had been stationed in the U.S. as part of the F-35 effort were kicked out, and the Defense Department began to remove all Turkish companies from F-35 supply chains. That process is still ongoing.

In its own readout of the meeting between Mr. Cavusoglu and Mr. Blinken on Wednesday, Biden administration officials acknowledged that the issue came up but did not elaborate.

“Secretary Blinken urged Turkey not to retain the Russian S-400 air defense system,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said in a statement.

Turkey‘s open defiance of the U.S. on the S-400 comes days after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan sided with Russia on another high-profile issue: President Biden’s claim that Russian President Vladimir Putin is a “killer.”

Shortly after Mr. Biden made the explosive accusation in an interview with CBS News, Mr. Erdogan bashed the remark as unbecoming of a world leader.

“Mr. Biden’s statements about Putin are not fitting of a president,” Mr. Erdogan said.

The White House has defended the comments, which referred to the recent poisoning of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, an incident the U.S. has pinned on Moscow.

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