Having repeatedly sending F-16 fighter jets into Greek airspace, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is pressing for the United States to allow his country to buy F-35’s while going ahead with plans to buy a Russian S-400 missile defense system.
Greek-American and Diaspora groups and Hellenophiles in the Congress, led by New Jersey Democrat Sen. Robert Menendez, want to block the sale of the F-35s critics said could be used against Greece which ironically now has its closest ties ever to Washington.
That came after Prime Minister and Radical Left SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras dropped his anti-American and anti-NATO positions just as he reneged on anti-austerity promises and surrendered to the demands of European creditors to get an 86-billion euro ($96.6 billion) third bailout in the summer of 2015.
Erdogan said the F-35 project would collapse if Turkey did not participate, and that it would be an injustice to exclude his country over its plan to buy the Russian S-400 air defense system, said Reuters, although the US fears the fighter jet design could be compromised by Turkey having both.
President Donald Trump and Erdogan were said to have talked about setting up a working group to discuss whether Turkey could get the jets as the American leader is keen to sell weapons to almost anyone, although US intelligence is reportedly anxious and sanctions on Turkey were on the table if Erdogan persisted.
Turkey and Greece are both members of NATO but the defense alliance said it would refuse to intervene in Turkey’s repeated violations of Greek airspace and also waters by Turkish warships and vessels.
Like other NATO allies of the US, Turkey is both a prospective buyer and a partner in production of the F-35, which has been beset by cost overruns and delays, and entered service in the United States in 2015.
Speaking at a defense industry fair, Erdogan said those trying to exclude Turkey from the F-35 project had not thought the process through, and were ignoring its interests, the news agency added.
“We were surely not going to remain silent against our right to self-defense being disregarded and attempts to hit us where it hurts,” Erdogan said. “This is the kind of process that is behind the S-400 agreement we reached with Russia.”
“Nowadays, we are being subject to a similar injustice – or rather an imposition – on the F-35s … let me be frank: An F-35 project from which Turkey is excluded is bound to collapse completely,” Erdogan said, adding that Turkey was also rapidly working to develop its own air defense systems.
The broadcaster NTV reported that Turkish Presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin had also discussed the S-400 system and the F-35 program with US National Security Adviser John Bolton, as well as a date for Trump to visit Turkey.
Turkey said earlier it expected Trump to use a waiver to protect it against penalties over its purchase of the S-400s, after US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Turkey could could also face retribution for the deal under the US Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CATSAA).