U.S. officials confirmed that Turkey, a NATO member, test-fired its Russian-made S-400 air defense system. Photo courtesy of Russian Defense Ministry
Oct. 19 (UPI) -- Turkey's weekend firing of a test missile by its Russian-made S-400 air defense system appears to have broken a U.S.-Turkey agreement, risking sanctions, officials said.
U.S. defense officials told the New York Times and CNN that the S-400 system was tested in Turkey's Sinop province, on the Black Sea, where it was delivered earlier this month with British-made Banshee drones for use as targets.
The Turkish government did not confirm or deny the test, but the firing appears to violate an agreement with the administration of U.S. President Donald Trump not to test the system, according to several the officials.
"The U.S. Department of Defense is aware of reports of a possible test of the S-400 air defense system by Turkey. If accurate, the Department strongly condemns the test," Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Hoffman said.
"We object to Turkey's purchase of the system, and are deeply concerned with reports that Turkey is bringing it into operation. It should not be activated. Doing so risks serious consequences for our security relationship. Turkey has already been suspended from the F-35 program and theS-400 continues to be a barrier to progress elsewhere in the bilateral relationship," Hoffman said.
NATO and U.S. officials were critical of Turkey's 2019 purchase of the system from Russia, which could counter F-35 fighter planes used by NATO countries. The U.S. government has warned that activation of the system could lead to sanctions against Turkey, a NATO member.
"Today's test by Turkey of the Russian-made S-400 air defense system is a stark reminder that Ankara is not deterred by simple meek pleas coming from the Trump administration," said Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, in a statement on Friday.
"[Turkish president Recep Tayyip] Erdogan only responds to actions, not words. In July 2019, Turkey took delivery of the S-400 in clear violation of U.S. sanctions mandated by the Countering America's Adversaries through Sanctions law. The Trump Administration has ignored the law, weakening our hand against Putin. It has also has emboldened Erdogan, leading to today's test."
"Turkey must be sanctioned immediately for its purchase and use of this system," Menendez added.
The agreement between Turkey and the United States kept the S-400 unactivated until last weekend.