WASHINGTON, July 17, (RTRS): US President Donald Trump said on Tuesday it is “not fair” to either Turkey or the United States that Washington cannot sell Ankara billions of dollars worth of F-35 fighter jets after it bought a Russian air defense system.
Turkey started taking delivery of Russia’s S-400 air defense system last week in defiance of US warnings that doing so would mean the Pentagon would kick it out of the F-35 stealth fighter program and that it could be subject to sanctions.
Washington’s concern is that deploying the S-400 with the F-35 would allow Russia to gain too much inside information of the stealth system. Buying military equipment from Russia also leaves the NATO member liable to US sanctions retribution under a 2017 law known as the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act, or CAATSA. “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 … we’ll see what happens. But it’s not really fair,” Trump told reporters at a Cabinet meeting at the White House. “Because of the fact that you bought a Russian missile, we’re not allowed to sell them billions of dollars’ worth of aircraft. It’s not a fair situation,” Trump said, lamenting the jobs that would be lost. “I would say that (F-35 manufacturer) Lockheed is not exactly happy,” he said.
Trump’s nominee to become defense secretary, Army Secretary Mark Esper, reaffirmed in his Senate confirmation hearing the Pentagon’s long-standing position that Turkey could not have both the S-400 and F-35. Esper testified to the Senate Armed Services Committee on Tuesday that he told Turkey’s defense minister: “You can either have the S-400 or you can have the F-35. You cannot have both.” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Trump were reviewing “all of the options that are in the CAATSA legislation,” State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said.