The S-400, the successor to the S-200 and S-300 missile systems, made its debut in 2007. Compared with U.S. systems, the Russian-made S-400 is believed to be capable of engaging a wider array of targets, at longer ranges and against multiple threats simultaneously.
In multiple efforts to deter Turkey from buying the S-400, the State Department offered in 2013 and 2017 to sell the country Raytheon‘s Patriot missile system. Ankara passed on the Patriot both times because the U.S. declined to provide a transfer of the system’s sensitive missile technology.
In 2017, Turkish President Recep Erdogan brokered a deal reportedly worth $2.5 billion with Russian President Vladimir Putin for the S-400 despite warnings from the U.S. that buying the system would come with political and economic consequences.
Under the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act, which President Donald Trump signed in August 2017, Turkey could be slapped with economic sanctions for accepting the Kremlin’s missile system. The United States has not issued these sanctions on Turkey.
“The administration’s peculiar failure to implement CAATSA as the law requires is both a moral hazard and in marked contrast with the posture of ‘maximum pressure’ pursued in so many other cases,” explained Thomas Karako, director of the Missile Defense Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
“Erdogan seems to have made a strategic choice to prefer Russia over the United States and other NATO allies. There are some hard questions that need to be raised about just what kind of ally Turkey is, exactly, and the future of Turkey’s place in NATO,” Karako added.
Despite facing potential U.S. sanctions, a dozen countries have expressed interest in buying Russia’s S-400 missile system.