'Turkey has begun taking delivery of a Russian missile system that has irked US officials but serves as a win for both Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and the Kremlin.
Turkish television showed scenes of three Russian cargo planes arriving at a military airport in the Turkish capital, Ankara, reportedly carrying parts for the S-400 anti-aircraft weapon system.
“The transfer of the first group of S-400 long-range air and missile defence systems to the Murted air base started on 12 July,” the defence ministry reported in a tweet. Russian officials confirmed the deliveries.
Local news outlets reported that it could take up to five months for all the parts to arrive. The missiles for the system are expected to arrive separately in sea vessels.
The potential delivery of the S-400s had prompted White House threats of economic sanctions and other reprisals against the Nato member. The purchase violates US sanctions on Russia’s military industry and raises concerns that it could undermine Nato security.
“Turkey has made a very bad choice,” Chris Van Hollen, a US senator, wrote on Twitter on Friday. “This is not the conduct of an ally. Unless it reverses course, Turkey will not receive the F-35 aircraft and any move to deploy the Russian S-400 system must be met with immediate sanctions under US law.”
But the delivery of the $2.5bn weapons system, ordered in 2017, represents a significant strategic and economic win for Moscow, which is trying to boost its arms industry as well as weaken the Nato alliance.
The Russian president, Vladimir Putin, has assiduously courted Mr Erdogan over the last three years, exploiting Turkey’s frustrations with Washington over its Syria policy and cosy relations with Gulf Arab monarchs to lure Ankara closer into its orbit.
“This is a formula to cement Turkey’s political relationship with Russia at a time when the relationship with the US went in the opposite direction,” said Sinan Ulgen, a Turkey specialist at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace'
Read more: Turkey delights Putin and irks Trump as it begins taking delivery of Russian missile system
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