US Still Pressing Turkey To ‘Return’ S-400 Missiles To Russia: “We Offered Alternatives”
Now least two years into the Turkey F-35 and S-400 crisis, the US appears desperate to end the inter-NATO rift which has not only seen Washington-Ankara relations hit their lowest point ever, but which has on the Turkish side been a major factor in pummeling the economy, including sending the lira spiraling lower over consecutive months.
“We have offered alternatives to Turkey, they know exactly what to do if they want to get out from underneath these sanctions,” US Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman told CNN Turk in an interview on Friday.
“I hope that we can find a way forward,” she said in statements which came as Sherman is in Ankara for the first such diplomatic trip to Turkey of a Biden official under his administration.
“Turkey is well aware of the steps it needs to take,” Sherman continued in the televised remarks. “We have talked about ways to take them. And this will be a decision for Turkey to take.”
No doubt this is a reference to the Trump admin’s efforts to push the US Army’s Patriot systems in place of the Russian S-400 anti-air missiles, long seen as capable of compromising US technological secrets connected with the F-35’s stealth and radar-evading technology (for which Turkey was cut out of the Lockheed F-35 program).
At this point of course Turkey has long had possession of the S-400, and has even successfully field tested it, thus it’s long a “done deal” – yet it’s reportedly not yet been activated in terms going fully operational. Sherman’s comments implied, however, Washington’s willingness to work with its uneasy NATO ally at “reversing” the S-400 implementation.
“They still want Turkey to move the S-400 systems out of the country or return it,” a top Turkish official told Middle East Eye, while also emphasizing that Sherman has thus far not offered any “new” proposal or specific alternative (other than the aforementioned Patriot missiles.
“Multiple Turkish officials said in the past that Ankara wasn’t considering the removal of the system from the country since it was a done deal and there was no turning back,” the MEE report continues.
Erdogan himself has for years been vehement in public statements that it’s ‘impossible’ for Turkey to reverse course. But as MEE notes, “However, Turkey has yet to fully activate the S-400 system, in order to prevent any escalation with Washington” – particularly in the form of expanded sanctions.