Pentagon Steps Up Dispute With Turkey Over Weapons Purchase From Moscow

WASHINGTON — The Trump administration stepped up a dispute with Turkey on Friday, saying the Pentagon would end cooperation over its new fighter jet program because Turkey is refusing to back down on buying Russia’s most sophisticated antiaircraft system.

In carefully choreographed steps, Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan released a letter he sent Thursday to the Turkish minister of defense, Hulusi Akar, outlining the path the Pentagon is taking to stop Turkey from participating in the F-35 fighter program. The steps include halting the training of Turkish pilots on the advanced fighter jets starting July 31.

The United States has already stopped delivery of F-35 parts to Turkey, a North Atlantic Treaty Organization member that has built increasingly close ties in recent years to Moscow. Turkey has bought four F-35s, but the jets remain in the United States.

Separately, officials told reporters at the Pentagon that Turkey would not be allowed to take part in previously scheduled meetings on the weapons system.

Both Mr. Shanahan and Ellen Lord, the Pentagon’s top acquisitions official, said that if Turkey dropped plans to buy Russia’s S-400 antiaircraft system, the United States would welcome it back into the F-35 program.

The Russian system is an advanced surface-to-air missile system that can shoot down planes like the F-35. The United States wants Ankara to buy the American-made Patriot radar system, manufactured by Raytheon.

It has been difficult to determine if the United States and Turkey are serious about removing Ankara from the F-35 weapons program, or if each side is haggling for the best deal it can get on the Patriot. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey has so far been insistent that his country is going ahead with its planned purchase of the Russian system. On Tuesday, he said that the United States had not given Turkey “an offer as good as the S-400s.”

The United States insists that the Russian system is incompatible with the F-35. American officials say that proximity between the S-400 and the F-35 could compromise the American program’s security.

“While we seek to maintain our valued relationship, Turkey will not receive the F-35 if Turkey takes delivery of the S-400,” Mr. Shanahan said in his letter. “In addition to threatening the security of platforms like the F-35, Turkey’s procurement of the S-400 will hinder your nation’s ability to enhance or maintain cooperation with the United States and within NATO, lead to Turkish strategic and economic over-dependence on Russia, and undermine Turkey’s very capable defense industry and ambitious economic development goals.”

Ms. Lord, during a briefing on Friday with reporters at the Pentagon, said the administration was united in this latest decision, despite President Trump’s penchant for making policy detours after telephone conversations with the Turkish leader, as he did in December when, after speaking with Mr. Erdogan, he abruptly pulled American troops out of Syria.

Mr. Trump has not said much on the topic since a phone call last week with Mr. Erdogan, during which the Turkish leader brought up the idea of setting up a group to study the effect of the S-400. The two men will meet on the outskirts of the G-20 summit meeting this month in Japan, officials said.

“We continue to work very closely with the N.S.C. and state and all of government,” Ms. Lord said, referring to the National Security Council and the State Department.

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