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Russian S-400 surface-to-air missile launchers are seen in Sevastopol in 2018. A first shipment of the sophisticated missile defense system arrived in Turkey on Friday, July 12, 2019.

Russian S-400 surface-to-air missile launchers are seen in Sevastopol in 2018. A first shipment of the sophisticated missile defense system arrived in Turkey on Friday, July 12, 2019. (Courtesy Russian Defense Ministry )

STUTTGART, Germany — The first shipment of a sophisticated Russian missile defense system arrived in Turkey on Friday, as the prospect of U.S. sanctions looms over the NATO ally.

The first batch of the S-400 system landed at Murted Air Base in Ankara, Turkey’s defense ministry announced on Twitter. Turkey continued receiving components of the air defense system on Saturday.

The arrival of the equipment brings to fruition a deal between Moscow and Ankara that has been in the works for two years, despite repeated protests from Washington.

The Trump administration has warned Turkey it faces potential penalties under the U.S. Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act. The U.S. also has said it will bar Turkey from receiving F-35 fighters it has ordered, over concerns the jets’ technology could be compromised by the Russian system.

NATO also has raised concerns about Turkey’s deployment of the S-400, which would not be compatible with other alliance systems.

For its part, Turkey says it acquired the system to meet its defense needs, but hasn’t described any particular threat it aims to counter.

The S-400 is a long-range system designed to counter missiles and fighter planes. Turkey’s last encounter with such a threat came in 2015 when a Turkish F-16 shot down a Russian fighter that crossed into Turkish airspace.

Tensions soared between Moscow and Ankara at the time, but only briefly. By 2017, the two countries were deep into negotiations over the $2.5 billion missile defense deal.

What comes next isn’t clear. At a meeting of the G-20 in Japan last month, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said President Donald Trump assured him no sanctions would be levied, although administration officials have said otherwise.

The Trump administration urged Turkey to opt for the Patriot system instead, but Erdogan gave no indication he intended to give up the S-400s.

vandiver.john@stripes.com Twitter: @john_vandiver

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John covers U.S. military activities across Europe and Africa. Based in Stuttgart, Germany, he previously worked for newspapers in New Jersey, North Carolina and Maryland. He is a graduate of the University of Delaware.

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