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Russia Sells Deadly Missile Systems to Turkey and India, Sparking Controversy With U.S.

Russia is selling key United States allies a missile system in a move the U.S. warned could drive the countries away from the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).

Of particular concern is Turkey, a NATO member that occupies a significant geopolitical position. The U.S. has warned Turkey that the Russian S-400 missile system is incompatible with NATO technology, but that fact does not seem to have deterred Ankara.

"The purchase of S-400 air defense missile systems meets Turkey’s national interests that have nothing to do with politics. The Russian systems minimize Turkey’s external dependence. This is very important for our country," Turkey’s minister of interior Suleyman Soylu told reporters on Thursday.

Turkey and Russia agreed last year that Moscow would sell Ankara the S-400 system, and Turkey has already reportedly paid the first installment. Russia will likely deliver the system as early as 2019 or 2020.

Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis, however, has argued that NATO’s systems and Russia’s systems cannot technologically operate together. What’s more, Turkey could be in violation of U.S. sanctions by purchasing the missile defense system from Russia.

U.S. officials are reportedly holding secret talks with their Turkish counterparts in order to deter them from purchasing the S-400 system. Turkish media reported that the U.S. was urging Turkey not to use the systems even if they do purchase them.

Nevertheless, analysts say that the relationship between Turkey and its NATO partners is becoming increasingly strained. Russia’s military role in Turkey’s neighbor Syria has also pushed Ankara to draw closer to Russia. Turkish officials have met with leaders from Russia and Iran to discuss the future of Syria, meetings that have sidelined the U.S. and other NATO allies.

Meanwhile, U.S. ally India has also announced that it will purchase the Russian missile system.

“Military-technical cooperation between India and Russia was discussed during the meeting [in May] between the leaders. We are committed to all our agreements in this sphere, including purchase of S-400,” India’s Ambassador to Russia Pankaj Saran told Russian media Friday.  

“India has a long history of military-technical cooperation with Russia based on trust and mutual benefit. There is no change in the approach of India to our partnership in this field,” he added.

The Russian S-400 system is effective against stealth aircraft, ballistic missiles, and cruise missiles, researchers note. China currently has an S-400 system, but Turkey will be the first NATO ally to purchase one.

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