Alwaght- Turkey has confirmed paying a deposit to Moscow to buy Russian S-400 defense missile systems in a move seen as a blow to US-led NATO military alliance.
Speaking to journalists after returning from a visit to Kazakhstan, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said, “Our friends have already signed [a deal on] S-400s. A deposit has also been paid, as far as I know. The process will continue by the transfer of a credit from Russia to us. Both Mr. [Russian President Vladimir] Putin and myself, we are determined on this issue."
The Turkish leader also commented on some Western media reports that Ankara could backtrack from buying the Russian-made missile systems as they wouldn’t be compatible with NATO’s radars.
"It’s us who will make decisions regarding our independence. We are responsible over taking security measures for the defense of our country. We’ll save ourselves if we face difficulties in procuring defense systems," he said.
Turkey is a NATO member and has traditionally procured major weapons systems from fellow member states.
Russia confirmed the agreement, with Vladimir Kozhin, Russian President Vladimir Putin's adviser for military cooperation, saying: "The contract has been signed and is being prepared for implementation."
Russia’s S-400 Triumf is the latest long-range antiaircraft missile system that went into service in 2007. It is designed to destroy aircraft, cruise and ballistic missiles, including medium-range missiles, and can also be used against ground objectives. The S-400 can engage targets at a distance of 400 km and at an altitude of up to 30 km.
The deal is expected to cause anxiety for NATO's other 28 member countries, as the Russian-made equipment may not prove technically compatible with defense systems operated by the alliance.
A Pentagon spokesman criticized the procurement decision, saying it is "generally not a good idea" for members of NATO to buy inter-operable apparatus.
Turkey is currently undergoing a massive military modernization process, spending $5bn on new weapons and upgrades. There are serious concerns within NATO that with the purchase of S-400, Turkey is likely to replace its current arsenal of European or American origin with Russian weapons.