Turkey and U.S. defence chiefs may talk S-400s at NATO summit - Bloomberg

The Turkish and U.S. defence chiefs may discuss Ankara’s planned purchase of Russian S-400 missile system during a meeting of NATO defence ministers this month, Bloomberg reported on Monday citing a Turkish security official.

Acting U.S. Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan sent a letter to Turkish Defence Minister Hulusi Akar on Thursday detailing how Turkey’s participation in the F-35 program will be all but suspended as of July 31 unless Turkey withdraws from its planned purchase of Russian S-400 defence systems, which Washington says could collect data on NATO military operations and undermine their defences. 

Two defence chiefs might talk the issue during the NATO meeting scheduled for June 26-27 in Brussels, Bloomberg said.

Washington previously set June 7 as deadline for Ankara to decide to either cancel its acquisition of Russia’s S-400 missile systems and buy U.S.-made Patriots or risk expulsion from an advanced U.S. fighter jet program, U.S. sanctions and possible blowback from NATO.

Meanwhile, around 100 Turkish servicemen travelled to Russia to receive training in the S-400s at the end of May, local press reported last month.

Andrew Winternitz, the U.S. deputy assistant secretary of defense for Europe and NATO, urged Turkey to stop the training in Russia at a Pentagon briefing, Bloomberg said.  “That would be a great signal to us,” Bloomberg quoted Winternitz as saying.

Citing anonymous U.S. and Turkish officials, Bloomberg reported last month that the Turkish and U.S. presidents had agreed to set up a working group on the S-400 purchase during a phone conversation on May 29.

The U.S. Department of Defense Spokesman for NATO, Russia and Europe, Eric Pahon, told Ahval last week that a joint U.S.-Turkish working group would not mitigate U.S. concerns over S-400 missile systems. 

“We are unable to establish a link between Turkey’s partnership in F-35 program and its purchase of the S-400,” Bloomberg quoted İsmail Demir, the head of the main Turkish state body dealing with arms procurement and production, as saying. The United States has not acted on forming a joint technical committee, according to Demir.

Demir also said the Turkish Defence Ministry and his directorate were working on sending a response Shanahan’s letter soon, Reuters reported.

According to Demir, Turkey also responded to the latest U.S. Patriot offer and is waiting for a response.