Turkey, girding for the worst despite encouraging messages from President Donald Trump, has stockpiled crucial spare parts for American-made weapons in case Congress sanctions it over a contentious Russian missile purchase.
It’s unclear when the stockpiling decision was first taken, but Turkish officials say the preparations were made in anticipation of possible U.S. embargoes. The U.S. has been threatening sanctions against Turkey since 2018, after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan decided to buy the Russian S-400 missile-defense system, a competitor to American-made Patriots.
Still haunted by a crippling U.S. arms embargo half a century ago, Turkey’s military has been amassing parts for F-16 jets and other military hardware, according to two Turkish officials familiar with their country’s defense strategy. Relations between the two countries deteriorated over the course of the Syrian civil war, when the U.S. armed a Kurdish militia that Turkey views as a terrorist group, and in the aftermath of a 2016 coup attempt against Erdogan that his government blames on a Turkish imam residing in the U.S.
NATO member Turkey is determined to acquire ballistic missile technology, and aims to co-produce the next generation of the S-400, the officials added, citing discussions with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Erdogan said his country will take delivery of the S-400 within days.
“The first batch of S-400s will be delivered in a week or 10 days,” Haberturk newspaper cited him as saying in a report Monday. “I’ve clearly told this to Trump, Mr. Putin also said it”.