Aiding Greece, US Bars Turkey from Buying F-35 Fighter Jets

Αssociated Press

FILE - In this March 29, 2019, photo, a U.S. F-35A fighter jet prepares to land at Chungju Air Base in Chungju, South Korea. (Kang Jong-min/Newsis via AP)

In a decision that benefits Greece, the United States won’t let Turkey buy American-made F-35 fighter jets after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said he would go ahead with the purchase of a Russian S-400 missile defense system.

Turkey would have had a decided edge over Greece, whose pilots use aging F-16 fighters that Athens wants to upgrade. The US said Turkey’s acquisition of the Russian system would compromise the F-35’s and undermine NATO, to which the countries belong.

It wasn’t reported why NATO allows Turkey to stay in the defense alliance if the country is going to use a defense system from its major enemy even after the end of the Cold War. Turkey blasted the decision that came after US President Donald Trump assured Erdogan that Ankara would get the jets. Turkey’s Foreign Ministry said the decision “will irreparably damage relations” between the countries but didn’t make any move to bar the US from continuing to use a Turkish military base.

The unilateral move by the US "neither complies with the spirit of alliance nor is it based on legitimate grounds," the ministry was quoted as saying by Anadolu agency, also complaining that the decision was “unfair,” echoing Trump’s own words.

Turkey said US and NATO worries the S-400 system designed to combat the F-35s would jeopardize the fighter jets security “are not valid” but didn’t explain why if the missile defense could be used against them.

Turkey had proposed a working group with the US to negotiate but it was rejected, with Ankara saying that was “a clear indication that the US is biased and lacks the will to resolve the matter in good faith."

Turkey repeatedly sends fighter jets into Greek airspace leading Greek pilots to frequently engage them in mock dogfights, often in the skies above Greek islands in the Aegean. Supporters of Greece in the US Congress and others said Turkey should not have both the US F-35s and the Russian S-400 because it could put Greece in peril during a conflict.