Turkey will continue to take its own security measures, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said on Wednesday, dismissing Western concern over the NATO member’s agreement to procure an S-400 air missile defense system from Russia.
“They went crazy because we made the S-400 agreement. What were we supposed to do, wait for you? We are taking and will take all our measures on the security front,” Erdoğan said during a meeting with mayors from the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) in Ankara.
Erdoğan said in July that the deal had been signed, although the deal appears to have been drawn out since then, due to issues over financing. He said Sunday that a down payment has already been transferred to Moscow and he and Russian President Vladimir Putin were determined that the agreement should proceed.
Western governments have expressed concern over the deal – which Erdoğan said in July had been signed – as it cannot be integrated into the NATO system.
Turkey said in April that NATO ally nations had not presented a “financially effective” offer on alternative missile defense systems.
The decision to procure the Russian system comes as Turkey finds itself frequently at odds with NATO allies, particularly the United States and Germany. Ankara has been angered by U.S. support for the PKK’s Syrian offshoot YPG in the battle against Daesh in Syria.
The U.S. Pentagon said it had expressed concerns to Turkey about the deal.
“We have relayed our concerns to Turkish officials regarding the potential purchase of the S-400. A NATO interoperable missile defense system remains the best option to defend Turkey from the full range of threats in its region,” spokesman Johnny Michael said in a statement.
Turkey’s need for an air missile defense system once again became urgent with the start of the civil war in Syria, a country which has a sizeable ballistic missile stockpile able to strike a large portion of Turkey’s territory, in addition to biological and chemical weapons.
Turkish officials are concerned that the missiles could be used by the Assad regime in case of a unilateral military conflict or an international military intervention, while the possibility of the missiles falling into the hands of a terrorist group poses greater danger.
The country had to rely on Patriot batteries provided by its NATO allies Germany, the Netherlands and Spain during the conflict.
Turkey faced similar worries during the Iran-Iraq War and the First and Second Gulf Wars due to the ballistic missiles possessed by those countries.