Apr 19 2019

U.S. and Turkey "closer" to solving S-400 issue - U.S. Acting Defense Sec.

The United States and Turkey are closer to a solution for their S-400 disagreement, acting U.S. Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan told reporters after welcoming Albanian Minister Of Defence Olta Xhaçka to the Pentagon.

Washington Times reported;

Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan struck an optimistic tone on whether the U.S. and Turkey could reach common ground regarding the S-400 acquisition, telling reporters at the Pentagon he would personally travel to Turkey and accompany the first deliveries of the F-35 to Ankara's forces.

Earlier in the day Shanahan told reporters that his comments about sending the F-35s to Turkey were "really more my optimism. It was an expression of optimism to Defence Minister Akar. The fact that I would go to deliver the F-35 represents that we resolve the S-400. And that's what I am expecting we'll be able to solve."

The United States Government's branches appear to have united in one foreign policy item that will block the transfer of F-35 jets to Turkey if the S-400 purchase goes ahead. Pro-government Turkish daily Sabah's Ankara representative Okan Muderrisoğlu wrote that the Russian S-400s might be stored in Azerbaijan or Qatar to avoid U.S. reprisals that have been threatened if they are deployed in Turkey. 

Pentagon spokesperson Charles Summers on Thursday said there had been no update with regards to the waiver request that top Turkish officials have put to U.S. President Donald Trump on the issue, and added that the U.S. position to S-400s has not changed.

The Pentagon earlier in the month confirmed that the United States had stopped sending F-35 parts to Turkey. Congressional bills have been introduced that if passed will stop the transfer of F-35s to Turkey unless Ankara cancels the S-400 purchase. 

Shanahan described Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar's job as "very difficult" and added, "he's managing many, many different issues. And in many areas, we're very much aligned.  And in others, you know, we have, you know, real difficult challenges to solve."

Akar was in Washington, D.C. this week participating in the annual American-Turkish Council meetings in which he delivered a softly-spoken talk to convince the U.S. counterparts that Turkey's purchase of S-400s is not something the Washington administration should be concerned about. 

Shanahan added that both countries have "a rich dialogue going on as we're addressing the situation in Syria."

If U.S. officials were to expel Turkey from the multinational group that builds the F-35 Lightning II, Turkish defense officials said they would likely pursue Russian fighter jet technology, DefenseNews reported.

According to DefenseNews reporter Burak Bekdil, 

a defense procurement official said “geostrategic assessment” would make Russian options emerge as the natural first replacement. “Russian fighter technology would the first best choice if our American allies behaved in an un-allied way and questioned Turkey’s membership in the Joint Strike Fighter program,” he said.