As the delivery date of the Russian S-400 air defense system to Turkey approaches, the United States ambassador to NATO told CNBC that Ankara cannot have both the F-35 fighter jets and the Russian-made S-400 missile defense system.
Turkey is expected to receive the S-400 air defense system from Russia in July.
Kay Bailey Hutchison, the US-NATO ambassador, and former US senator, told CNBC’s Hadley Gamble on Tuesday that Turkey can either have the Russian S-400s or the F-35 warplanes, but not both.
“Turkey as a sovereign nation has the right to make its own decision, but they will not be able to procure the F-35 if they are going to have an S-400. You have to make a choice. You can have one or the other, but not both,” she said.
Ankara’s purchase of a Russian missile system could provide help for Kremlin, which is trying to “continue to probe ways” to disrupt and weaken the NATO alliance, Hutchison further said to CNBC.
“Russian missile system under the same military control as an F-35 fighter jet is unacceptable,” the ambassador said.
She warned that Turkey might “lose association” with the F-35 warplanes that they have already ordered.
Turkey’s NATO allies, especially the US, regard the country’s integration of the Russian S-400 system as a direct threat to the security of Lockheed Martin’s F-35 fighter jet program, of which Ankara is a part.
They hold forth that the Russian system is not compatible with the defense network of NATO.
Ankara faces losing its supply chain position within the F-35 program if it opposes Washington’s demands to abandon its planned the purchase of S-400 system.
Turkish authorities reportedly have until the end of this week to cancel the deal with Russia on the purchase of the S-400s and instead buy Raytheon’s US-made Patriot missile defense system.
Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan argued in April that the F-35 program would collapse without input from his country.
The Turkish president also told reporters on Tuesday that Turkey will not back out of its S-400 purchase deal with Russia, which was signed in 2017 and has since caused friction between Washington and Ankara.
In late March, the US froze the delivery of F-35 equipment to Turkey in a move that was seen as its first concrete step that might lead to the removal of Turkey from the program.
According to Reuters’ report last week, the US is considering the suspension of Turkish pilot training for the F-35 fighter jets due to Ankara’s determination not to give up on the S-400 agreement with Moscow despite strong disapproval and warnings from Washington.