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US Vice President warns Turkey, Germany over deals with Russia

Vice President Mike Pence gives opening remarks before a meeting with members of the National Space Council on “leading the next frontier” at the Udvar-Hazy National Air and Space Museum in Chantilly, Va., Oct. 5, 2017. The council includes top government and Defense Department officials. (Army Sgt. Amber I. Smith/Department of Defense)

This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence has warned Turkey and Germany about their dealings with Russia, telling Ankara it is “reckless” and warning Berlin it risks becoming a “captive” of Moscow.

Pence’s comments came on April 3 in Washington as part of events marking the 70th anniversary of the founding of NATO, of which Turkey and Germany are long-standing members.

Pence voiced U.S. opposition to Turkey’s purchase of a Russian air-defense system, saying Ankara must decide between remaining a key NATO partner or risk endangering the military alliance with the deal, which he said “poses great danger to NATO.”

“Turkey must choose. Does it want to remain a critical partner in the most successful military alliance in history or does it want to risk the security of that partnership by making such reckless decisions that undermine our alliance?” Pence said.

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The United States and other NATO countries have demanded that Ankara call of its deal with Russia to purchase the S-400, which is not compatible with NATO systems and is considered a threat to U.S. F-35 fighters.

Washington has said it is halting deliveries to Turkey related to the F-35 program in response to Ankara’s purchase of the Russian missile system.

Meanwhile, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met with Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu in Washington on April 3 and warned, in stark language, “of the potentially devastating consequences of unilateral Turkish military action” against the U.S.-backed, Kurdish-led forces in Syria.

Highlighting the wide-range of issues that impact U.S.-Turkish relations, Pompeo also demanded “the swift resolution of cases involving unjustly detained” U.S. citizens and local staff who were employed at U.S. diplomatic missions in Turkey.

A spokesman for Turkey’s Foreign Ministry later contested Washington’s representation of the meeting, saying a readout released by the State Department failed to “reflect the content of the meeting” and contained “matters that were not even raised during the said meeting.”

Meanwhile, Cavusoglu told the the PBS Newshour program late on April 3 that Turkey had proposed the creation of a “technical working group and to examine” any U.S. concerns about Ankara’s S-400 missile deal with Russia.

Cavusoglu also told the U.S. public television broadcaster that it was “unacceptable” for Washington to insist that Turkey cannot buy a defense system from another country but would not sell any to Turkey either.

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Earlier this week, a senior State Department official said in a briefing that Ankara could face U.S. sanctions if it went ahead with its purchase of Russian-made S-400 missiles.

Ankara has refused to back down on its planned purchase, with Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu telling the NATO gathering that “the S-400 deal is a done deal and we will not step back from this.”

Another Turkish leader, Vice President Fuat Oktay, lashed back at Pence’s remarks — saying it was Washington that must decide whether it wants to remain an ally of Ankara.

“The United States must choose. Does it want to remain Turkey’s ally or risk our friendship by joining forces with terrorists to undermine its NATO ally’s defense against its enemies?” Oktay wrote on Twitter.

Meanwhile, Pence told Germany onApril 3 it risked being a “captive of Russia” if it proceeds with the Nord Stream 2 project with Moscow.

“If Germany persists in building the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, as President Trump said, it could turn Germany’s economy into literally a captive of Russia,” Pence said.

Nord Stream 2, scheduled to be completed in 2019, would run directly from Russia to Germany under the Baltic Sea, bypassing several European transit countries including Ukraine.

That would help Moscow avoid the transit-fee disputes and other political confrontations that have plagued its existing pipeline network.

Washington and some European leaders fear that without legal changes, the pipeline will increase Western Europe’s dependence on Russian natural gas and give Moscow more negotiating leverage over unrelated political issues.