The United States and Turkey appeared to make no progress during talks at NATO headquarters on Wednesday towards resolving a major dispute over Ankara’s plans to acquire a Russian air defence system, just ahead of its expected July delivery.
The United States says Turkey’s acquisition of Russia’sS-400 air defences poses a threat to the Lockheed Martin Corp’s F-35 stealthy fighters, which Turkey also planned to buy. Washington says Ankara cannot have both and has started the process of removing Turkey from the F-35 programme, including halting training of Turkish pilots in the United States on the advanced, stealth aircraft.
Acting U.S. Defence Secretary Mark Esper warned his Turkish counterpart, Hulusi Akar, during closed-door talks on Wednesday that Turkish acquisition would also have an economic impact, a senior U.S. defence official said, in a nod to expected U.S. sanctions.
“The secretary was very firm, once again, that Turkey will not have both the S-400 and the F-35. And if they accept the S-400 they should accept ramifications not only to the F-35 programme but also to their economic situation,” the official said.
Buying military equipment from Russia leaves Turkey vulnerable to U.S. retribution under a 2017 law known as the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act, or CAATSA.
Turkey has played down U.S. concerns about the security of the F-35 and insists it cannot back away from the S-400 purchase. U.S. offers to supply it with Patriot missiles, manufactured by Raytheon Co, have failed to sway Ankara.
Asked if Turkey changed its position in any way, the official said: “There were no surprises but…the minister and the secretary were very clear with each other.”