S-400 and F-35s to be deployed separately: Defense minister
Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar reiterated on April 15 that Turkey will take precautions to prevent sensitive NATO information from falling into Russian hands following the deployment of a Russian-made S-400 anti-aircraft weapon system.
The U.S. government and other members of the world’s biggest military alliance have repeatedly expressed concerns that the S-400 system could result in a security breach, making it easier for Russia to target NATO aircraft.
U.S. officials have threatened to suspend the sale of fifth-generation F-35 combat jets to Turkey if Ankara goes ahead with the purchase of the S-400 system.
Speaking to reporters in Washington, Akar said the S-400 system will not be integrated with NATO assets.
“S-400s will probably be deployed to protect Ankara or Istanbul while F-35s will be deployed in Malatya,” Akar said.
The Turkish defense minister was in the U.S. capital to attend the American-Turkish Council conference. He was scheduled to meet with Patrick Shanahan, the acting U.S. deputy defense minister, on April 16.
Rebutting the U.S. argument that the S-400 and F-35 jets cannot be deployed in the same territory, Akar noted that Israel has deployed F-35s near Syria in proximity to Russian S-400 anti-aircraft weapon systems. A similar situation is in play in NATO-member Baltic states, he said.
Akar said in contrast to the Americans, the Russians have not raised concerns that the United States would steal sensitive information from the S-400s.
“We tell our American interlocutors: ‘You don’t trust us as much as Russians trust us.’”
Akar also reiterated that the United States should cooperate with Turkey in a safe zone that will be created following the partial withdrawal U.S. soldiers. He said Turkey wants YPG forces to be pushed back at least 30 to 40 kilometers away from Turkish borders.
“They [the YPG] are using model planes to launch attacks on Turkish targets,” he said.
In the meantime, Turkey's relationship with the U.S. needs to be based on trust, common values, and shared interests, Turkish presidential spokesman said on April 15.
İbrahim Kalın said Washington's threats would only damage the relationship at a conference hosted by the American-Turkish Council.
He addressed some positives between the two countries, such as U.S. President Donald Trump's call to increase the trade volume to $75 billion, but he also discussed an issue that the S-400 issue.
Excluding Turkey from the F-35 program will not punish Ankara but the entire program said Kalın.
"We really have to address the issue of trust," he said.
Kalın said the kind of language involving terms like sanctions will ultimately put a "dent in that relationship."
"Rather than using the language of threats from sanctions against Turkey, I think the people here in Congress, as well as this administration, should understand Turkey's security concerns," Kalın said.
"I don't think the United States can afford to lose Turkey," Kalin said.