Turkey on Friday reportedly test fired its Russian-made air defense system which they had acquired last year over the strenuous objections of the United States.
Turkish media said that the military fired the Russian S-400 air defense missile in the Sinop province, which borders the Black Sea. A Turkish news channel considered close to Ankara obtained amateur video that reportedly showed a missile’s contrail shooting into the sky.
Turkish military and government officials declined to comment on the reports, according to the AP.
The Pentagon later acknowledged the reports and quickly condemned the alleged test, saying in a statement that “an operation S-400 system is not consistent with Turkey’s commitments as a U.S. and NATO Ally.”
“We object to Turkey’s purchase of the system, and are deeply concerned with reports that Turkey is bringing it into operation. It should not be activated,” Pentagon spokesperson Jonathan Hoffman said.
“Doing so risks serious consequences for our security relationship,” he added. “Turkey has already been suspended from the F-35 program and the S-400 continues to be a barrier to progress elsewhere in the bilateral relationship.”
Turkey’s decision to purchase the $2.5 billion Russian system resulted in them being shut out of the program to purchase the U.S. built F-35 Lightning II fighter jet.
At the time, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle issued sweeping calls for penalties on Turkey for acquiring the Russian system last year. The White House has yet to formally punish Ankara outside of removing Turkey from the F-35 joint manufacturing program.
Sen. Robert Menendez, the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, immediately called for new sanctions on Ankara in response to the reported test.
“Turkey must be sanctioned immediately for its purchase and use of this system,” the New Jersey Democrat said in a statement.
He argued that President Trump’s relationship with Turkish President Ergogan and Russian President Putin led to the purchase of the system and poses “a serious threat to our national security and that of our NATO allies and partners in Europe.”
Bradley Bowman, senior director for the Center on Military and Political Power at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies said the U.S. was correct to evict Turkey from the F-35 program.
“But that step is not enough. At this point, to not impose the necessary sanctions would be national security malpractice,” Mr. Bowman said in a statement. “It would leave many foreign observers with the impression that Washington does not back up its words with actions.”
Turkish officials have said they were forced to purchase the S-400 because Washington refused to sell them the U.S. Patriot missile system.
“It also argues that it’s Turkey’s sovereign right to buy the system it wants,” according to Reuters.
It might be time for the U.S. to dust off contingency plans for moving U.S. personnel out of Turkey’s Incirlik Air Base, Mr. Bowman said.
“This is not how a NATO ally should behave. An ally should not buy an air defense system from the preeminent threat to the alliance,” he said. “Ankara may be a NATO ally but it has not acted like one throughout this process with the S-400.”
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