U.S. President Donald Trump said Tuesday that the current situation with Turkey over F-35 jets was not fair, as the country had wanted to buy U.S. Patriot missiles before but Washington had refused at the time.
“The situation with Turkey is very complex and tough. We are in contact with Turkish officials,” he said, expressing his reluctance to punish Turkey over its acquisition.
Trump’s comments are followed by Turkey’s purchase of the Russian S-400 missile defense system, which has raised tensions with the United States and other NATO allies.
Trump again blamed the Obama government for failing to sell America’s best alternative to the Russian S-400s — Patriot missiles, made by Raytheon Co. He said Turkey was “forced to buy another missile system.”
Turkey has repeatedly said the S-400 is a strategic defence requirement, acquired mainly to secure its southern borders with Syria and Iraq, and when it made the deal with Moscow for the equipment, the US and Europe failed to present a viable alternative.
“Turkey is very good with us, very good, and we are now telling Turkey that because you have really been forced to buy another missile system, we’re not going to sell you the F-35 fighter jets. It’s a very tough situation that they’re in, and it’s a very tough situation that we’ve been placed in, the United States,” Trump told reporters during a cabinet meeting at the White House.
“The Obama administration would not sell them the Patriot missiles. They needed the Patriot missiles for defense. They would not sell them under any circumstance. And Turkey tried very hard to buy them and they wouldn’t sell them, and this went on for a long period of time,” Trump said.
“All of a sudden, everybody started rushing in saying to Turkey, okay, we’ll sell you the Patriot missile. Because of the fact that (Turkey) bought a Russian missile, we’re not allowed to sell them billions of dollars’ worth of aircraft. It’s not a fair situation,” Trump said, lamenting the jobs that would be lost.
U.S. officials urged Turkey to buy American-made Patriot missiles, arguing that the Russian system would be incompatible with NATO systems and expose F-35 Joint Strike Fighters to possible Russian subterfuge.