Updated: June 29, 2019 5:15:07 pm
The S-400 air defence system deal has been a bone of contention in the US’ relations with Turkey and India, as it calls for sanctions under the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA). While Turkey has dismissed the warnings and said it would not back down, India has said it will do what is in its national interest.
US President Donald Trump Saturday told his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan that the issue over Ankara’s procurement of S-400 air defence systems from Russia can be resolved without damaging bilateral ties, Reuters quoted the Turkish presidency as saying. The meeting between the two leaders on the sidelines of G-20 Summit in Osaka is being seen as a progressive step in easing the strained relations between the US and Turkey.
In a statement following talks between Erdogan and Trump, the Turkish presidency said Erdogan had voiced concerns about US actions that may harm the strategic partnership between the two NATO allies.
Before meeting Trump, Erdogan held talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin and reiterated his stand on the S-400 deal, saying there were no setbacks in it, adding that “eyes are on the delivery process”, expected in the first half of July.
The S-400 deal with Russia can leave Turkey vulnerable to US sanctions under CAATSA, which specifically targets Russia, Iran, and North Korea. The United States also says the S-400s are not compatible with NATO’s defence network and could compromise its Lockheed Martin F-35 stealth fighter jets, an aircraft Turkey is helping to build and planning to buy.
If Turkey goes ahead with the deal, it may face expulsion from the F-35 programme among other measures that could deal a significant blow to Turkey’s already ailing economy and its defence industry sector.
India will do what is in its national interest
India is also in talks with Russia over the procurement of S-400 air defence system. The matter was raised during the recent visit of US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s India visit where he met External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar, but the two sides could not come to a conclusion on the issue. After the meeting, Jaishankar had said that India will do what is in its national interest.
Over the last decade, US defence deals with India have grown from near zero to worth $15 billion, including key Indian acquisitions such as C-17 Globemaster and C-130J transport aircraft, P-8(I) maritime reconnaissance aircraft, M777 lightweight howitzers, Harpoon missiles, and Apache and Chinook helicopters. The US will likely accept India’s request for Sea Guardian drones, and American manufacturers including Lockheed Martin and Boeing are contenders for mega arms deals with India.
In July last year, the US communicated that it was ready to grant India (along with Indonesia and Vietnam) a waiver on the CAATSA sanctions. The waiver also conveyed the acceptance by the US that India could not be dictated on its strategic interests by a third country.
Why is US opposed to S-400 air defence system?
The Russian-built S-400 Triumf — identified by NATO as the SA-21 Growler — is the world’s most dangerous operationally deployed modern long-range surface-to-air missile system, and is considered much more effective than the Terminal High Altitude Area Defence system developed by the US.
In August 2017, President Donald Trump signed into law the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA), which specifically targets Russia, Iran, and North Korea. Title II of the Act seeks to punish Russia for its military intervention in Ukraine and its alleged meddling in the 2016 US Presidential elections, by taking aim at its oil and gas industry, defence and security sector, and financial institutions. Section 231 empowers the US President to impose at least five of 12 listed sanctions — enumerated in Section 235 — on persons engaged in a “significant transaction” with the Russian defence and intelligence sectors.
The US State Department has notified 39 Russian entities, “significant transactions” with which could make third parties liable to sanctions. Almost all major Russian defence manufacturing and export companies/entities including Almaz-Antey Air and Space Defence Corporation JSC, the manufacturers of the S-400 system, are on the list.
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