ANKARA, Turkey – Turkish Prime Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Monday that US President Donald Trump is unwilling to slap sanctions on Ankara, although he threatened to do so earlier over Russia’s already dispatched elements of the S-400 to Turkey.
Prime Minister Cavusoglu pledged that Ankara will retaliate if the sanctions are imposed, including those which would target US presence in Turkey’s Incirlik airbase.
“If the United States slaps sanctions, we will respond in kind. A relevant step can also be taken with regards to the Incirlik airbase. This is a natural position under these circumstances, not a threat and blackmail”, Cavusoglu told the Turkish news TV channel, TGRT Haber.
Cavusoglu added that the S-400 air defense system will be put to service in Turkey during the first couple of months next year.
Separately, he pointed out that Turkey’s partners in the F-35 program are concerned over Washington’s decision to suspend Ankara. He made it clear that Turkey will “meet its defense needs elsewhere” if the US does not supply the F-35 fighter jets, which Ankara already paid for.
The statement comes after the White House said in a press release that Turkey’s move to buy Russian S-400 air defense systems “renders its continued involvement with the F-35 project impossible”.
The US is worried about the possibility of other countries acquiring the S-400, primarily because it would greatly limit their power-projection capabilities. Apart from Turkey, there are other countries acquiring or interested in acquiring the S-400, despite threats of US sanctions if they were to do so.
This includes India, but reportedly Iran and Iraq are interested, and even traditionally pro-American Persian Gulf monarchies (Qatar, UAE, and Saudi Arabia). There are reports that even Greece, which already operates the S-300, is interested in acquiring the system.
Apart from the S-400, there’s a possibility that Turkey may acquire the state-of-the-art Su-35 jets if the US is to deny deliveries of the F-35.