Turkish President Erdogan will collaborate with Russia regarding space exploration, submarines and warships, he declared on Friday, adding that his country still intends to purchase a second installment of the same Russian defense system that it first bought in 2019.
The declarations are seen as a response to Monday’s warning, issued by the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee under Chairman Bob Menendez, of new sanctions if it carries out its threat to purchase more weapon systems from Russia.
“We were crystal clear when we wrote the CAATSA law: Sanctions are mandated for any entity that does significant business with the Russian military or intelligence sectors. Any new purchases by Turkey must mean new sanctions,” Menendez said on Twitter.
Erdogan stated that his country will work with Russia to jointly produce jet engines, warships and submarines, during a meeting he held with Russia’s longtime President Vladimir Putin.
Speaking to journalists who accompanied him to the town of Sochi on Wednesday, the Turkish leader said that he discussed defense and military issues with Putin, but adding that he also discussed how the countries might build “a second and third nuclear reactor.”
The Akkuyu nuclear reactor, already constructed by Russia in southern Turkey, is not yet online.
Erdogan declared that he has no intentions of changing its plans to purchase another round of Russian S-400 missile defense systems, as it did in August of 2019, despite the far-ranging sanctions levied on the country by the US for violations of NATO regulations.
Erdogan – Russia partnership will be ongoing, including submarine construction
He further stated that there will be collaboration between Russia and Turkey regarding joint construction of (war)ships” he noted before adding that they will also explore the possibility of building submarines together.
The Turkish leader even shared that he and Putin discussed the possibility of collaborating in the realm of space exploration.
“Putin would like to work with Turkey in space. Our teams will study this issue and we will create a roadmap,” Erdogan stated, adding “There is even a further offer; by creating one platform on the sea and another on land, we can jointly work on rocket firing tests to space.”
The Wednesday meeting with Putin occurred against a background of heightened tensions regarding Syria, where Russian warplanes bombarded opposition camps near Idlib, an area where there are Turkish military installations.
Idlib has been the subject of a ceasefire agreement, inked in March of 2020, between Turkey and Russia, with more than three million Syrian refugees trapped in the area.
Further military escalation may push these people into Turkey, which already has millions of refugees within its borders.
Turkey uneasy over volatile situation in Idlib, Syria
An anonymous senior Turkish official told interviewers from Middle East Eye after the meeting between the Russian and Turkish leaders “There is no change in Idlib. We will preserve the status quo there.”
Experts have speculated that Erdogan may have tried to placate Putin with promises of more collaboration in the defense arena as a way to protect the status quo at Idlib.
The president added that “Of course some problems occur in the areas where we provide security in Idlib. We reached a consensus to resolve these issues with phone diplomacy between the leaders, foreign ministers, defense ministers, and joint work by the respective intelligence agencies.”
The US imposed financial sanctions on Turkey over its purchase of the Russian S-400 missile defense system in 2019 and ceased collaborating with Ankara regarding the F-35 program developing state-of-the-art fighter jets.
The White House denied Ankara’s request for a meeting on the sidelines of last week’s UN General Assembly in New York, but yesterday the Turkish president told the press that he will indeed meet with Biden in Rome at the same time as the G-20 summit takes place in late October.
In a story published on Sept. 29 in the New York Times, Erdogan continued his tough talk,
declaring that Turkey will strengthen its defense capabilities in whatever way it desires.
Speaking to the editors of the Times at the Türkevi Center, opposite UN headquarters at the time of the UN General Assembly meetings, Erdoğan insisted that Ankara has not undermined the NATO alliance by purchasing the Russian missile system, despite the clear indications that it had done just that.
The S-400 system, as a Russian product, is not compatible with NATO defense systems.
Erdogan said that he “would not have had to buy S-400s” if Washington had sold its Patriot defense missiles to Turkey, charging “we buy our own weapons.”
Erdoğan replied “I think it was worth it” when asked about the severe financial fallout of the purchase of Russian materiel. “We can strengthen our defense as we please,” he added.
“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 declared to interviewers from CBS News.
During an official visit to Athens in August, Senator Robert Menendez, a staunch critic of the Turkish President, stressed that he hopes Turkey will be a democratic and constructive partner which respects its NATO commitments and the commitments it has made with its neighbors in the region.
The United States wants to support efforts in the region to improve relations and ease tensions, “but we cannot remain silent when Turkey’s behavior escalates tensions,” he stated.
Last Sunday, The US Department of State also warned Turkey that it risks new sanctions if it continues to buy Russian weapons.