WASHINGTON : President Donald Trump said Tuesday the U.S. will not sell Turkey advanced F-35 fighter jets over Ankara’s acquisition of the Russian S-400 anti-air system, bemoaning the fact and blaming his predecessor for the impasse.
“We have a situation where Turkey is very good with us, and we are now telling Turkey that because you have really been forced to buy another missile system we’re not going to sell you the F-35 fighter jets,” Trump told reporters during a Cabinet meeting at the White House.
“It’s a very tough situation that they’re in. And it’s a very tough situation that we’ve been placed in, the United States,” added Trump.
The Trump administration had threatened to expel Turkey from the F-35 fighter program if it acquired the S-400 from Russia, warning the anti-air system could be used by Moscow to covertly attain secret information on the stealth fighter.
The delivery of S-400 components began last week and is ongoing. Turkey’s Defense Ministry said a twelfth Russian plane with the anti-air parts landed at Murted airfield outside Ankara on Tuesday.
Following protracted efforts to purchase an air defense system from the U.S. with no success, Ankara signed a contract in 2017 to purchase the S-400s from Russia.
Trump blamed the ongoing row over the F-35 on the Obama administration, whom he said created the problem by not allowing the Turkish government to purchase Patriot missile systems.
“As soon as they found out that they were going to have to buy the missiles, comparable missiles, not as good a missile, but a comparable almost missile from Russia – all of a sudden everybody started rushing and saying to Turkey, ‘Okay, we’ll sell you the Patriot missile,'” he said.
“But by that time, Turkey had already signed and paid a lot of money to Russia for the missile system that they were not allowed to buy here, foolishly. Because Turkey is a NATO member.”
Turkey ordered over 100 F-35 aircraft with plans to order more, Trump said, and manufacturer Lockheed Martin “isn’t exactly happy. That’s a lot of jobs.”
The U.S. halted in June training for Turkish pilots as a step in winding down Turkey’s participation in the F-35 program.
Washington has also threatened sanctions over Turkey’s purchase, with Ankara responding that any sanctions would be met in kind.AA