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US promises Turkey ‘constraints’ in relations as it kicks it out of F-35 program over S-400

US promises Turkey ‘constraints’ in relations as it kicks it out of F-35 program over S-400
Washington is cutting Ankara out of the F-35 program, because the stealth fighter “cannot coexist” alongside the Russian air defense systems currently being delivered to Turkey, the White House announced.

“The F-35 cannot coexist with a Russian intelligence collection platform that will be used to learn about its advanced capabilities,” White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham announced on Wednesday.

The US has repeatedly threatened to remove Turkey from the international consortium building the F-35 and block deliveries of the jets Ankara has bought and paid for, if the planned purchase of the Russian missiles went ahead. The government of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has maintained this would be against the rules and said it would buy whatever weapons it wants.

The White House sought to strike a conciliatory tone, however, calling Ankara a “longstanding and trusted partner and NATO Ally for over 65 years,” even if the S-400 purchase “undermines the commitments” of NATO to not buy Russian weapons.

“The United States still greatly values our strategic relationship with Turkey,” Grisham said in a statement. “Our military-to-military relationship is strong, and we will continue to cooperate with Turkey extensively” though mindful of the “constraints” posed by the S-400, she added.

Also on rt.com Erdogan hails Russian S-400 delivery, wants to ‘go much further’ and make weapons with Russia

Over at the Pentagon, officials went out of their way to tell reporters that the move will not harm NATO, though they could not explain exactly how.

Deputy undersecretary for policy David Trachtenberg said that the upcoming NATO exercises in Georgia, Germany and Ukraine that involve Turkish forces will proceed as planned, but could not say whether F-35s will be involved.

Ellen Lord, head of acquisitions, said that Ankara was being “suspended” from the program, leaving open the possibility of being reinstated if it gave up the Russian missiles. She added that all Turkish personnel involved in the F-35 program will leave the US by the end of July, and the suspension would take full effect by March 2020.

Moving the F-35 supply chain from Turkey will cost up to $600 million, Lord said. The F-35 program’s lifetime cost has already been estimated at over $1.5 trillion, making it one of the most expensive in history.

No mention was made of Erdogan’s statement on Monday that Ankara would like to go “much further” and set up “joint production” of weapons with Russia going forward. The remarks came on the anniversary of a 2016 coup attempt that the Turkish government has blamed on an exiled cleric currently living in the US.

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