Washington stepped up its pressure over Turkish plans to buy S-400 missiles from Russia by threatening sanctions on Turkish firms. Chief arms buyer Ellen Lord said that the only businesses that would be excepted are those currently building parts for American F-35 fighter jets. However, even the current manufacturing would move back to the US under proposed Pentagon plans.
It comes after foreign minister Mevlut Cavusoglu issued a firm response to similar Washington threats made last week.
Though Lord stressed that the US viewed Turkey as a crucial NATO ally, there was no mincing of words as she outlined the Trump administration’s plans to squeeze Turkey economically.
She said: “We have bifurcated the S-400 and F-35 impact from (the) impact to the rest of our defence and commercial industry.
“Everything outside of the F-35 from a defence perspective, we have reviewed within the department and that would be subject to any CAATSA sanctions.
“It would be very, very significant for Turkey.”
In a thinly veiled threat, Lord added that though they wish to continue working with Turkey, US industry could easily find other sources for Turkish parts.
The US Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) currently affects Iran, Russia and North Korea – and Ankara may be set to join the list.
However, concern in Washington will only grow with the news that Erdogan has approved plans to develop its own stealth fighter – the TF-X is set to be complete by 2025.
Mr Cavusoglu said last Thursday: “If the United States takes any negative actions towards us, we will also take reciprocal steps.
“We are determined on the S-400 issue. No matter what the results will be, we will not take a step back.”
The minister added that it is impossible to cancel the order from Russia – which is due to arrive in July.
The US is concerned that Ankara’s growing relationship with Moscow could pose a significant threat if it continues to develop.
Should they purchase the Russian S-400 missiles as well as continuing to build and import American F-35s, Washington is concerned that their fighter jets could be exposed to subterfuge by Moscow.
Turkish officials, however, argue that they can fulfil their responsibilities in the F-35 partnership while also buying S-400s – which they say pose no threat to the US.
Ankara is considered a strategic ally by both Moscow and Washington due to its strength and geopolitical location.
Both nations have been scrambling to get Turkey on board in recent years – but Erdogan has refused to explicitly pick sides, instead striking deals with both in order to strengthen his own nation.