Erdogan: Turkey not backtracking on S-400 deal with Russia

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Turkey would not withdraw from a deal made with Russia to buy an S400 missile defense system. (Presidential Press Service via AP)
Updated 04 June 2019

Erdogan: Turkey not backtracking on S-400 deal with Russia

  • ‘We have made an agreement (with Russia). We are determined. There is nothing like backtracking from that’

ISTANBUL: President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Tuesday Turkey would not withdraw from a deal made with Russia to buy an S-400 missile defense system despite pressure from the United States.

“We have made an agreement (with Russia). We are determined. There is nothing like backtracking from that,” Erdogan was quoted as saying by the official Anadolu news agency.

Ankara’s desire to buy the Russian S400 system has been a major source of contention between NATO allies Turkey and the United States, which has threatened sanctions.

Last week, a top Pentagon official said the consequences would be “devastating” for Turkey’s joint F-35 fighter program and its cooperation with NATO if the country goes ahead with plans to buy the Russian missile defense system.

Kathryn Wheelbarger, Acting Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs, said Ankara’s planned purchase of the S-400 would damage Turkey’s ability to work with the Western alliance, and force Washington to hit the country with sanctions.

She said that the US administration, even if it does not want to punish Turkey for the purchase, could be forced to do so by a Congress unsympathetic to Ankara.

Turkey has defied the mounting pressure and said the purchase was a “done deal.”

Erdogan on Wednesday spoke with US President Donald Trump by phone and, according to the Turkish leader’s office, they discussed Ankara’s previous offer to form a “joint working group” on the missile system.


Hundreds of employees fired from Turkey’s Incirlik air base

Updated 25 January 2020

Hundreds of employees fired from Turkey’s Incirlik air base

  • Incirlik Air Base is located in Turkey’s Adana province, near the Syrian border, and it has been a strategic element in ties between Ankara and Washington
  • It has also played a key role for the US-led Operation Inherent Resolve (OIR) against Daesh in Syria and Iraq in the past

ANKARA: More than 420 people working at a crucial military air base in southern Turkey have lost their jobs, with some analysts considering it symbolic of decreased cooperation levels with the US and as the Pentagon reconsiders Middle East deployments.
Incirlik Air Base is located in Turkey’s Adana province, near the Syrian border, and it has been a strategic element in ties between Ankara and Washington. It has also played a key role for the US-led Operation Inherent Resolve (OIR) against Daesh in Syria and Iraq in the past, as well as hosting US nuclear warheads.
The Colorado-based company Vectrus System Corporation, which provides day-to-day maintenance and operation services at the base, terminated the contracts of almost half of its employees at the base earlier this month.
“The base surged to support OIR,” Aaron Stein, director of the Middle East program at the Foreign Policy Research Institute, told Arab News. “The Turkey-based staff for OIR has mostly left. So, the base is going back to its pre-OIR level of people, and that level requires less contractor support.”
Vectrus did not reply to Arab News’ request for comment about its decision to scale back at the base.
Joe Macaron, a resident fellow at the Arab Center in Washington, said the move was largely symbolic as the canceled contracts related to logistical support rather than the US military mission.
“But obviously, it comes against the background of some tensions in the US-Turkish relationship and previous hints by Ankara that it might reconsider the status of the Incirlik base,” he told Arab News. “The Pentagon is reconsidering its deployment across the Middle East and it might be looking to become less dependent on Incirlik without fully exiting this crucial military air base.”
Incirlik air base has been used in the past as a bargaining chip at times of tension between the two countries.
“Turkey may re-evaluate the status of the Incirlik Air Base if the US imposes sanctions,” Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said last month in an interview with pro-government channel A-Haber, referring to the potential fallout from Turkey’s decision to buy an air defense system from Russia. 
Washington has threatened to use its Countering America’s Adversaries through Sanctions Act to punish Ankara for buying the S-400 system.
Seth J. Frantzman, who is executive director of the Middle East Center for Reporting and Analysis, said reports of the US reducing presence at Incirlik, or challenges to the US presence there, have been growing over the last years.
“Whether these reports relate to changes or are just random is unclear and it is important to note that the large interests of the military and history tend to mean the US does not simply walk away from bases, even if it reduces its role slowly over time,” he told Arab News.
The US has invested heavily in the Jordanian Muwaffaq Salti Air Base to expand its presence there.