Esper tells Senate it’s either S-400s 0r F-35s for Turkey, Trump says it’s ‘not fair’
U.S. President Donald Trump has said it is "not fair" to either Turkey or the United States that Washington cannot sell Ankara billions of dollars worth of F-35 fighter jets after it bought a Russian air defense system,
Turkey started taking delivery of Russia's S-400 air defense system last week in defiance of U.S. warnings that doing so would mean the Pentagon would kick it out of the F-35 stealth fighter program and that it could be subject to sanctions.
Washington's concern is that deploying the S-400 with the F-35 would allow Russia to gain too much inside information of the stealth system.
Buying military equipment from Russia also leaves the NATO member liable to U.S. sanctions retribution under a 2017 law known as the Countering America's Adversaries through Sanctions Act, or CAATSA.
"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 … we'll see what happens. But it's not really fair," Trump told reporters at a cabinet meeting at the White House on 16 July.
"Because of the fact that you 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.
"I would say that (F-35 manufacturer) Lockheed is not exactly happy," he said.
Trump's nominee to become defense secretary, Army Secretary Mark Esper, reaffirmed in his Senate confirmation hearing the Pentagon's long-standing position that Turkey could not have both the S-400 and F-35.
Esper testified to the Senate Armed Services Committee on 16 July that he told Turkey's defense minister: "You can either have the S-400 or you can have the F-35. You cannot have both."