Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Friday confirmed that the Turkish military recently conducted a missile-firing exercise with S-400 advanced air-defense system it has procured from Russia, attracting criticism from the US government.
“It is true that tests have been carried out,” Erdoğan announced on Friday in televised remarks that the S-400 tests had taken place despite objections from the US.
Underlining that Turkey had every right to test its weapons, Erdoğan added: “What are we supposed to do, not test these capabilities? America’s stance is absolutely not binding on us. Obviously, we’re not going to ask the US [for permission].”
“The gentlemen [US officials] are disturbed especially because this is a weapon [procured from] Russia. But we are determined: We will continue on our path,” the president said, dismissing US concerns.
Erdoğan also suggested a double standard was at play and said NATO member Greece was using its S-300 missile defense system without any objection from the US. “Is America telling them anything?” the president asked.
The US government has strongly objected to NATO member Turkey’s purchase of a missile system produced by Russia, a country deemed an adversary by the US, and in July 2019 removed Turkey from its F-35 fighter jet program, arguing the S-400s are a threat to the stealth fighter jets and would not be interoperable with NATO systems.
Washington has also warned Ankara that it risks US sanctions under the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) if the Russian advanced air defense system is activated.
The Turkish government argues they had to purchase the Russian system after Washington refused to sell them the US Patriot system.
Reports of the S-400 air defense system deployed to Sinop emerged early in October following an exclusive report by Turkish Minute citing a piece of official correspondence.
The document seen by Turkish Minute included details of a test to be conducted at the Sinop Missile Range that aimed “to ensure the engagement capability of the S-400 weapons system, the detection and tracking capability of the system’s radars, the communications system capabilities, and the control of the firing and command control capabilities.”
The Turkish media revealed videos of the S-400 tests in the Black Sea province of Sinop last week, sparking a series of condemnations from the Pentagon, the US State Department and some US lawmakers.
The Pentagon also strongly criticized the Turkish government on Friday, hours after Erdoğan’s statement, for the test of the Russian-made S-400 missile system and warned of “serious consequences.”
“The U.S. Department of Defense condemns in the strongest possible terms Turkey’s October 16 test. We have been clear and unwavering in our position. An operational S-400 system is not consistent with Turkey’s commitments as a U.S. and NATO ally,” chief Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Hoffman said in a statement.
“We object to Turkey’s testing of this system, which risks serious consequences for our security relationship.”
The agreement to buy the S-400 system was signed by Ankara and Moscow in 2017. In July 2019 Russia delivered the weapons system to Turkey, a country without an air defense system of its own until that time.
Although it was originally scheduled to take place in April, Turkey has since delayed the activation of the air defense system.