Turkey’s ratification of Swedish accession to NATO immediately brought good-will gestures by NATO allies. USA congress is likely but not certain to approve a $23 bn F-16 and upgrade kits to Turkey. Canada just lifted its ban on drone parts to Turkey. Now, Acting Deputy Secretary of State Victory Nuland states Turkey can be re-admitted to the F-35 fighter jet program, if the controversy about Russian made S-400 anti-missile systems can be resolved.
The United States is prepared to let Turkey back into its F-35 fighter jet program as long as the issue of its acquisition of the Russian S-400 missile defense system is resolved, Acting Deputy Secretary of State Victoria Nuland has told CNN Turk.
“We were in the process of negotiating the Patriot sale, and while those negotiations were going on, Turkey went in another direction…. Frankly, if we can resolve this S-400 issue, which we want to do, the USA would be pleased to welcome Turkey back into the F-35 family. But we must solve this other issue first, and while we solve it, we must also ensure that Turkey has a strong air defense,” she said in an interview on the sidelines of a visit to Turkey on Sunday, aimed at “reinvigorating” ties between the two countries.
On the matter of an agreement for the acquisition of US-made F-16 jets and modernization kits that still needs the approval of Congress, Nuland said that efforts have been made to convince US lawmakers that “Turkey’s development of the F-16 fleet is very important for American security, and that being fully active and participating at this level is important for burden sharing among the allies.”
“Turkey’s acquisition of these jets is a priority for the USA,” she added.
Turkey was sidelined from F-35 program in 2019, when Erdogan bought $4.2 bn worth of Russian made S-400 batteries:
“Turkey’s decision to purchase Russian S-400 air defense systems renders its continued involvement with the F-35 impossible,” the White House statement read, then. “The F-35 cannot coexist with a Russian intelligence collection platform that will be used to learn about its advanced capabilities.”
“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,” the statement continued”.
Comment by PA Turkey
While S-400s were never used, much less activated, Erdogan stubbornly defended them as absolutely essential for national defense. He is unlikely to change his views on this point until the elections. However a deal can be worked out afterwards, for instance shipping the batteries to a third country with Russian agreement, or turning over the control systems to a NATO officer.
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