- Turkey has contracted to purchase 100 F-35s, the most advanced American fighter aircraft, and made huge investments in the US program.
- Turkey played a key role in the Syrian war and provided weapons and military support to some armed groups.
- Turkey claimed the United States had slowed down in offering an alternative missile defense shield.
The United States said it was excluding Turkey from the F-35 fighter jet program after the first parts of the Russian advanced defense program S-400 was received in Ankara last week. Washington says the F-35 fighter jets can not coexist with a Russian intelligence-gathering platform that will be used to learn its evolving capabilities.
In response to the US decision, the Turkish Foreign Ministry said its exclusion from the F-35 program was not based on a legitimate reason and was not in line with Turkey being an ally of the United States. The Turkish foreign ministry called on the United States to back down from what it called a “mistake,” saying it would damage relations between the two NATO member countries.
“Unfortunately, Turkey to buy the Russian S-400 air defense system makes impossible its continuation in the F-35 program,” White House spokeswoman Stephanie Grisham said. “The United States has been working with Turkey to provide defensive solutions to meet its legitimate air defense needs, and it has made several offers to put Turkey in the lead for the Patriot Air Defense System,” the White House said.
“Turkey has always been a reliable partner and a NATO ally for 65 years, but the acceptance of the S-400 undermines the commitments made by NATO allies to stay away from Russia,” the statement continued. At the same time, Grisham said, “The United States continues to greatly appreciate our strategic relationship with Turkey. As allies in NATO, our relations have multiple levels and are not focused solely on the F-35.”
Turkey has contracted to purchase 100 F-35s, the most advanced American fighter aircraft, and made huge investments in the US program. Turkish companies produce 937 pieces of aircraft parts. But Turkey has also pursued an increasingly independent defense policy amid strained relations with the United States and Europe. Ankara bought the sophisticated S-400 system for $2.5 billion and sent members of its armed forces to Russia for training.
Turkey claimed the United States had slowed down in offering an alternative missile defense shield. US defense officials say the S-400 is not in line with the NATO system in the region. They said they did not want the F-35 fighters to be near the S-400 because they feared the Russians would recognize any significant points or weaknesses in the fighter jets.
Turkey has the second-largest NATO military in 29 countries and is a key ally of the United States, strategically important and has borders with Syria, Iraq, and Iran. Turkey played a key role in the Syrian war and provided weapons and military support to some armed groups. But ties have deteriorated with some members of NATO and the European Union, who accused Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of adopting an “increasingly authoritarian approach” to power following a failed coup attempt in 2016.