Erdogan flirts with fire as sparks fly over missile deal

Erdogan: “If we can’t have the F-35 jets, we will be forced to satisfy our fighter jet needs somewhere else”


Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has reaffirmed his determination to install a Russian S-400 missile system on Turkish soil, saying he could even move delivery forward despite ever louder warnings from Washington of the likely damage the move would do to Turkey’s status within the NATO alliance.

Speaking to a handful of his favorite media representatives en route home from Moscow, where he met with his new ally Russian President Vladimir Putin, Erdogan seemed to almost revel in the controversy. “Wherever we go, they ask us ‘Are you buying [the S-400s] or not?’ We respond that ‘This is our finalized deal, everything is in order.’ Delivery of the S-400 is scheduled for July.” He went further, saying, “Delivery may be moved forward.”

Erdogan appeared to dismiss the US administration’s announcement that it would suspend sales of state of the art F-35 fighter jets to Turkey should the Russian deal proceed. “They already gave us three [F-35s]; today they gave us a fourth. Training is continuing. As of now, there is no negative announcement with regard to the F-35s,” he claimed. Erdogan was likely referring to the transfer of the jets to Turkish air force pilots for training at Luke Air Force Base in Arizona. What he failed to mention, however, is that the aircraft and scores more slated for delivery will remain in US custody unless Ankara alters course, even though Turkey is part of a multi-billion-dollar consortium to produce the new generation fighters.

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