President Donald Trump blamed former President Barak Obama for Turkey’s decision to buy the S-400 missile system – a decision which has caused the USA to ban the sale of the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II to the country.
Trump said in public comments ahead of a cabinet meeting that Ankara would have not have signed up for the S-400 had it not been for the Obama administration’s initial refusal to sell the country the Raytheon Patriot missile system. On 12 July, Turkey took delivery of the first batch of components for the Russian-built S-400 surface-to-air missile system, defying threats from the USA that it would be cut from the F-35 stealth fighter programme.
The USA views the Almaz-Antey S-400 Triumf missile system, which has been advertised as having anti-stealth capabilities, as a threat to the Lockheed F-35 stealth fighter. Washington has also said the Russian weapon cannot be networked with other NATO air defence systems, which it claims would make coordinating air defence with Turkey more difficult.
“The Obama administration would not sell (Turkey) the Patriot missiles. They need the Patriot missiles for defence. They would not sell them, under any circumstance,” Trump says. “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 claims that after the Patriot missile system was made available to Turkey it was too late and the country had already made substantial payments to Russia for the S-400 and could not back out.
“With all of that being said, we’re working through it. We’ll see what happens. But it’s not really fair,” says Trump. “I would say that Lockheed isn’t exactly happy. That’s a lot of jobs.”
The president also seemed to express frustration with restrictions placed by the US Congress on the sale of F-35s to Turkey.
“Because of the fact (Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan) bought a Russian missile, we’re not allowed to sell him billions of dollars’ worth of aircraft,” he says. “It’s not a fair situation.”