The United States has informally suggested to Turkey that it send its Russian-made S-400 missile defence system to Ukraine to support it in its fight against the invading Russian forces, Reuters reported on information provided by sources in the know on Saturday.
According to the report, US officials ‘floated the suggestion’ with their Turkish counterparts, but made no formal request. The suggestion also came up during the visit of US Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman earlier this month, the sources said.
“I think everyone knows that the S-400 has been a long-standing issue, and perhaps this is a moment when we can figure out a new way to solve this problem,” Sherman told the Turkish broadcasting service Haberturk in an interview on 5 March.
Turkey’s purchase of S-400 missile defence systems has been a thorn in the side of relations between the US and Turkey since the first delivery in July 2019, and led to the latter being expelled from NATO’s new generation fighter jet (F-35) programme. The US also imposed sanctions on Turkey’s defence industry.
While the Turkish authorities declined to comment on questions regarding the US proposal, Turkish sources and analysts reportedly said that the suggestion would not be acted on for several reasons, including Turkish political concerns over possible repercussions Ankara would be likely to face from Moscow.
One source ‘familiar with US thinking’ said Washington’s floating of the possibility came as a result of the renewed effort to improve ties with Turkey at a time when Ankara has been spooked by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
The administration of Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan carefully formulates its rhetoric not to offend Moscow, as Turkey depends on energy imports from Russia, and also relies on Russian tourists as the primary source of income from tourism. On the other hand, Turkey has been selling armed drones to Ukraine, angering the Russian administration, and also opposes Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea.