President Erdogan defends Turkey's right to strengthen its defense

Ankara 'would not have had to buy S-400s' had Washington sold Patriot defense missiles to Turkey, says Turkish leader.

President Erdogan defends Turkey's right to strengthen its defense

Turkey can strengthen its defense capabilities in whatever way it wishes, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan told The New York Times in a story published Wednesday. 

Speaking to the US newspaper's editors at the Turkevi Center in New York last week, Erdogan reiterated that Ankara has not undermined NATO or the Western alliance by purchasing Russia’s S-400 missile system.

The president said that Ankara "would not have had to buy S-400s" had Washington sold Patriot defense missiles to Turkey, adding "we buy our own weapons.”

Asked whether Ankara's purchase of the Russian missiles was worth the friction with the US, Erdogan replied: "I think it was worth it.”

"We can strengthen our defense as we please," he said.

In an interview with CBS News, Erdogan said Turkey will move forward to buy more defense systems from Russia.

"In the future, nobody will be able to interfere in terms of what kind of defense systems we acquire, from which country, at what level. Nobody can interfere with that. We are the only ones to make such decisions," he told the American network.

In April 2017, when its protracted efforts to buy an air defense system from the US proved futile, Turkey signed a contract with Russia to acquire the state-of-art S-400 system.

US officials opposed the move, claiming the S-400s would be incompatible with NATO systems and would expose F-35 jets to possible Russian subterfuge.

In 2019, Washington announced that it was taking Turkey out of the F-35 stealth fighter jet program over Ankara's purchase of the S-400 system.

Turkey, however, stressed that the S-400s would not be integrated into NATO systems and pose no threat to the alliance or its armaments.

Ankara also repeatedly proposed setting up a commission to clarify the issue.

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Hüseyin Demir

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