Don’t trust Turkey on Ukraine

In July 2019, the Pentagon kicked Turkey out of the F-35 fighter jet program, ending Turkish factory work on some components of the next-generation fighter jet and canceling Turkey’s multibillion-dollar purchase of several dozen of the planes. The decision, a result of Turkey’s purchase of S-400 anti-aircraft missiles from Russia, exacerbated an already deep crisis of confidence between Ankara and Washington.

U.S. and NATO officials questioned the motives and judgment of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The S-400 was not only a financial boon for NATO’s prime adversary, but the Russian system could track and gather intelligence on the F-35 capabilities and enhance the Russian ability to counter an aircraft the Pentagon planned to rely upon for decades.

Many within the State Department’s unofficial Turkey lobby lamented the erosion in ties. The wound is fresh as Turkey demands either a refund of the money it advanced to purchase the F-35s or approval of its application to modernize F-16s.

The problem for the United States is twofold. First, such a deal would not rectify the problems caused by the S-400. Second, the Turks use their F-16s for cross-purposes to regional security — for example, in their constant bombing of returning Yezidi refugees.

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