President Trump is kicking Turkey out of the F-35 fighter jet program over the NATO ally’s insistence on purchasing Russian-made anti-aircraft defenses, the White House announced.
“Unfortunately, Turkey’s decision to purchase Russian S-400 air defense systems renders its continued involvement with the F-35 impossible,” said White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham. “The F-35 cannot coexist with a Russian intelligence collection platform that will be used to learn about its advanced capabilities.”
The announcement came amid a steady stream of Russian military planes delivering the advanced anti-aircraft defense systems to Ankara this week. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has insisted on his right to deploy the warplanes alongside Russia’s technology, resulting in a standoff that could have far-reaching consequences for the transatlantic alliance.
“Turkey has been a longstanding and trusted partner and NATO Ally for over 65 years, but accepting the S-400 undermines the commitments all NATO Allies made to each other to move away from Russian systems,” Grisham said. “This will have detrimental impacts on Turkish interoperability with the Alliance.”
The breach between the United States and Turkey is a victory for Russian President Vladimir Putin, less than four years after Turkish forces shot down a Russian fighter jet operating on the Syria-Turkey border. Two Russian cargo planes landed in Ankara on Wednesday, the Turkish government announced, bringing with them 13th and 14th shipment of equipment related to the anti-aircraft system.
“The delivery of the S-400 long-range air defense system is ongoing,” the Turkish Defense Ministry said.
U.S. and NATO officials have warned Turkey repeatedly that the turn toward Russian weapons would result in the loss of the F-35, but Erdoğan dubbed the S-400 deal “the most important agreement in [Turkish] modern history” on Sunday.
“The United States still greatly values our strategic relationship with Turkey,” Grisham said. “As NATO Allies, our relationship is multi-layered, and not solely focused on the F-35. Our military-to-military relationship is strong, and we will continue to cooperate with Turkey extensively, mindful of constraints due to the presence of the S-400 system in Turkey.”