Turkey rejects US pleas for U-turn on Russian arms
Unnamed sources said Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan already confirmed that the purchase from Russia was a “done deal” and “there is no backtracking from that”.
They also said Turkey’s suggestion of establishing a joint commission with Washington to examine the S-400 issue remained “on the table”.
The US has told Turkey that it would not receive its purchase of F-35 fighter jets if a Russian missile defence system is completed.
A Turkish diplomat told the BBC anonymously that Ankara, which has the second-largest army in Nato, could not back out of the Russian deal now, even if it wanted.
Russia’s state-owned defence corporation Rostec announced it would begin deliveries of S-400 air defence systems within two months, amid a conflict between the US and Turkey about the system’s compatibility with the F-35 and its ability to pinpoint the stealth jet’s weaknesses.
Nato’s new Supreme Allied Commander Europe, General Tod Wolters, said, “we are not interested in sharing the capabilities of our F-35 with Russia”.
The first four F-35s due to be delivered to the Turks have still not been dispatched, officially to allow Turkish pilots to train in the US.
Acting US defence secretary Patrick Shanahan wrote to the Ankara government: “Turkey’s procurement of the S-400 will hinder your nation’s ability to enhance or maintain cooperation with the United States and within Nato.”
He said the US was “disappointed” to discover Turkish specialists had been sent to Russia to train on the S-400.
“Turkey will not receive the F-35 if Turkey takes delivery of the S-400,” he wrote. “You still have the option to change course on the S-400.”
Shanahan said the training of Turkish pilots for the F-35 would end next month and Turkey, which has manufactured essential parts for the fighter jets, would be phased out of the programme.
Turkish companies have produced 937 of the F-35’s parts.
US, Turkish and Russian forces already operate in the same region in northern Syria and the US fears operational compromise.
“We do not want to have the F-35 in close proximity to the S-400 over a period of time because of the ability to understand the profile of the F-35 on that particular piece of equipment,” US Under Secretary of Defence Ellen Lord told the media.
The S-400 is clearly feared in Washington. Picture credit: Wikimedia