WASHINGTON: Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar held unannounced talks with acting Pentagon chief Patrick Shanahan Tuesday amid tensions over Ankara´s plans to buy a Russian missile defense system and its threat to attack Kurdish fighters in Syria.
Following protracted efforts to purchase an air defense system from the US with no success, Ankara decided in 2017 to purchase the Russian S-400 system.
He noted that Turkey is in dire need of the S-400 air defense system.
Tensions between the USA and Turkey have reached a fever pitch in recent months with Turkey set to begin receiving the advanced S-400 Russian surface-to-air missile system that Washington said will jeopardize Turkey's role in the F-35 fighter jet program and which could trigger congressional sanctions.
Turkey's relationship with the USA needs to be based on trust, common values, and shared interests, Turkish presidential spokesman said Monday.
It is not surprising, given the Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs' statements that if the United States does not hand over F-35 to Ankara, Turkey can buy similar aircraft (that is Su-57) from Russian Federation. Earlier, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced that S-400s could be delivered to Turkey before July this year.
In early April, the United States halted delivery of equipment related to the stealthy F-35 fighter aircraft to Turkey, marking the first concrete USA step to potentially blocking the delivery of the jet to the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation ally. However, as in the case of the S-400, Turkey may be interested not only in aircrafts, but also in their manufacturing technologies, which can accelerate the development of the aircraft industry of the Turkish military-industrial complex (MIC).
Excluding Turkey from the F-35 program will not punish Ankara but the entire program, said Kalin. "We have invested over $1 billion. and fulfilled all our obligations", he said.
On April 2, Shanahan said he was confident Turkey would reverse course and buy the US Patriot missile defense system instead, but Ankara has made no such commitment yet.
The topic of the S-400 purchase appeared in the Turkish media, where comparisons between the two machines' advantages and disadvantages immediately began. "This offer is now on the table, we are studying it carefully", he said.