No change in Turkey’s course on S-400 deal: Turkish officials
Turkish officials have told daily Hürriyet that there was no change regarding Turkey’s stance on an S-400 missile defense deal with Russia.
Their comments were in response to a question about the U.S. acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan’s letter to Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar that laid out the steps to remove Turkey from the F-35 training program.
The anonymous sources noted that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s has already said that the purchase from Moscow was a “done deal” and “there is no backtracking from that.”
The same sources said that “some of the U.S. institutions do not want to take into consideration” the issues that Erdoğan and his U.S. counterpart Donald Trump had previously mutually agreed on. They also said that Turkey’s suggestion of establishing a joint commission with the United States to examine the S-400 issue was “still on the table.”
Shanahan said in his letter sent to the Turkish Defense Ministry on June 7 that all Turkish pilots in the F-35 fighter jet program must leave the United States by July 31 and training for new pilots will be suspended.
The timetable would allow pilots currently training on the F-35 to complete their training and for other pilots to be reassigned to other posts, Shanahan said.
The letter said there were 34 students scheduled for F-35 training later this year.
“This training will not occur because we are suspending Turkey from the F-35 program; there are no longer requirements to gain proficiencies on the systems,” according to an attachment to the letter that is titled, “Unwinding Turkey’s Participation in the F-35 Program.”
In his letter, Shanahan also warned Ankara that its deal with Moscow risked undermining its ties to NATO, hurting the Turkish economy and creating over-dependence on Russia.
“You still have the option to change course on the S-400,” Shanahan wrote.
Tensions between the United States and Turkey have reached a fever pitch in recent months with Ankara set to begin receiving the advanced Russian surface-to-air missile system in July.
The United States has already suspended deliveries of parts and services related to Turkey’s receipt of the multi-million dollar jets.
Following protracted efforts to purchase an air defense system from the United States with no success, Ankara decided in 2017 to purchase Russia’s system.
U.S. officials advised Turkey to buy the U.S. Patriot missile system rather than the S-400 system, arguing that the Russian-made system would be incompatible with NATO systems and expose the F-35 to possible Russian subterfuge.
But Turkey has emphasized that the S-400 would not be integrated into NATO operability and would not pose a threat to the alliance.
Ankara said that it was Washington’s initial refusal to sell the Patriot missile system that led it to seek other offers, adding that Russia offered a better deal that included technology transfers.
Erdoğan said on June 4 the United States had yet to give Turkey an “offer as good as the S-400s.”