A high-ranking Russian official says his country is interested in expanding military and technical cooperation with other states, and is ready to consider signing new contracts on delivering advanced S-400 air defense missile systems to Turkey.
“Russia is open, Russia has certain capabilities and technological competence. Of course, Russia is looking for the opportunities to expand this cooperation. This is absolutely normal practice,” Kremlin Spokesman Dmitry Peskov (pictured below) told reporters in the capital Moscow on Wednesday.
His statement came after Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu indicated Turkey could order more S-400 systems from Russia in case the United States refuses to supply Ankara with Patriot surface-to-air missile systems.
“If the US does not want to sell Patriot to us, tomorrow we may buy another S-400 system and we also can purchase other air defense systems,” Cavusoglu told Turkish-language NTV television news network in an exclusive interview on Wednesday.
He also hit back at US criticism of the S-400 purchase, dismissing as nonsense the attempts of some countries to put into question Turkey’s membership in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).
Cavusoglu then pointed to US threats to cancel a deal for Lockheed Martin Corp F-35 jets if Turkey acquires Russian S-400 systems, stressing that Ankara could buy military aircraft from another source until it is able to produce its own.
The US announced on April 1 that it would be suspending all “deliveries and activities” related to Turkeyís procurement of F-35 stealth fighter jets over Ankaraís plans to purchase the S-400.
Moscow and Ankara finalized an agreement on the delivery of the S-400 in December 2017.
Back in April 2018, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin said in Ankara that they had agreed to expedite the delivery of the S-400. At the time, it was said that the delivery could be made between late 2019 and early 2020.
A number of NATO member states have criticized Turkey for its planned purchase of the S-400, arguing the missile batteries are not compatible with those of the military alliance.
They also argue that the purchase could jeopardize Ankaraís acquisition of F-35 fighter jets and possibly result in US sanctions.
The S-400 is an advanced Russian missile system designed to detect, track, and destroy planes, drones, or missiles as far as 402 kilometers away. It has previously been sold only to China and India.
Ankara is striving to boost its air defense, particularly after Washington decided in 2015 to withdraw its Patriot surface-to-air missile system from Turkish border with Syria, a move that weakened Turkey’s air defense.
Before gravitating towards Russia, the Turkish military reportedly walked out of a $3.4-billion contract for a similar Chinese system. The withdrawal took place under purported pressure from Washington.
Ankara’s ties with its Western allies in NATO have been strained over a range of issues.
Erdogan has been critical of Washington for supporting Kurdish groups in Syria that he says are responsible for terror attacks inside Turkey, among other issues.
The Turkish leader has also slammed US officials for rejecting his requests to hand over Fethullah Gulen, a powerful opposition figure living in the United States, whom Ankara accuses of having masterminded a coup attempt in July 2016.