U.S. Vice President Mike Pence has warned Turkey and Germany about their dealings with Russia, telling Ankara it is “reckless” and warning Berlin it risks becoming a “captive” of Moscow. Pence’s comments came on April 3 in Washington as part of events marking the 70th anniversary of the founding of NATO, of which Turkey and Germany are long-standing members. Pence voiced U.S. opposition to Turkey’s purchase of a Russian air-defense system, saying Ankara must decide between remaining a key NATO partner or risk endangering the military alliance with the deal, which he said “poses great danger to NATO.”
“Turkey must choose. Does it want to remain a critical partner in the most successful military alliance in history or does it want to risk the security of that partnership by making such reckless decisions that undermine our alliance?” Pence said.
The United States and other NATO countries have demanded that Ankara call of its deal with Russia to purchase the S-400, which is not compatible with NATO systems and is considered a threat to U.S. F-35 fighters. Turkey responded that the purchase of the advanced system was a done deal. Ankara has been establishing closer links with Russia after recent souring of its ties with the US and Europe. Turkey has the second-largest army in Nato, a 29-member military alliance set up to defend against what was at the time the Soviet Union. Mr Pence also rebuked Germany – another key Nato member – for not spending enough on its defence. Moscow has made no public comments on the latest developments. Relation between Nato and Russia have deteriorated over Moscow’s occupation of Ukraine’s Crimea peninsula and its withdrawal from a key missile treaty.
How did Turkey react?
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu repeated that the deal with Russia – thought to be worth about £2.5bn (£1.9bn) – would not be cancelled. In a tweet, Turkey’s vice-president later wrote: “The United States must choose. “Does it want to remain Turkey’s ally or risk our friendship by joining forces with terrorists to undermine its Nato ally’s defence against its enemies?”
What are S-400 systems?
The S-400 “Triumf” is one of the most sophisticated surface-to-air missile systems in the world. It has a range of 400km (250 miles) and one S-400 integrated system can shoot down up to 80 targets simultaneously. Russia says it can hit aerial targets ranging from low-flying drones to aircraft flying at various altitudes and long-range missiles.