In a rare CBS interview which aired Sunday on "Face the Nation", Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan announced his intent to purchase another round of Russian S-400 air defense systems, after under the prior Trump administration Turkey's reception of S-400s triggered deteriorated relations with Washington and a years-long diplomatic standoff which saw US threaten sanctions on its NATO ally.
Biden administration officials have on multiple occasions condemned the prior deal which "provides Russia revenue, access and influence" - as Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said earlier this year. Erdogan in the weekend interview confirmed bluntly that "of course, of course, yes" Turkey will pursue more Russian anti-air defense systems.
"I explained everything to President Biden," Erdogan had begun in the segment which focused on the firm US stance on Turkey, which in 2019 saw Trump suspend delivery of Lockheed produced F-35 jets to Turkey. US officials have long argued that the jet's stealth and radar evading technology can be compromised given Turkey would at the same time have S-400s, which further involves Russian advisers and technicians assisting with the systems.
CBS News' chief foreign affairs correspondent Margaret Brennan asked specifically about whether Turkey will defy Washington and pursue more of the Russian long-range missile defenses:
The Turkish president responded, "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," he added. "We are the only ones to make such decisions."
"That sounds like a yes," Brennan replied.
Erdoğan responded, "Of course, of course, yes."
Turkey still intends to buy a second batch of S-400 missile defense systems from Russia, President Tayyip Erdogan said, a move that could deepen a rift with NATO ally Washington and trigger new U.S. sanctions https://t.co/z6P09aIomp pic.twitter.com/lBsEkjSXkO— Reuters (@Reuters) September 26, 2021
Likely the words will trigger renewed talk of sanctions in Congress and within the US administration, given also that Biden has vowed to 'get tough' on Turkey, following accusations that Trump was too deferential to the US ally and had a compromisingly close friendship with the Turkish leader.
Starting all the way back in January 2020, as Biden began attempting to set himself apart from Trump on the issue, Biden was quoted in The New York Times as saying Erdogan is an "autocrat". This reference came up in the CBS interview, to which Erdogan quipped in reference to Biden, "Mr. President's definition of an autocrat remains unknown to me. I don't know what he meant."