Home » Aviation » State Dept. Official: Turkey’s Interest in Russian Air Defense System Could Hurt Projects Like F-35

State Dept. Official: Turkey’s Interest in Russian Air Defense System Could Hurt Projects Like F-35

Several U.S. military-industrial projects in cooperation Turkey are in question – including the production of the F-35 – if Ankara goes through with the acquisition of a Russian S-4000 air defense system, a senior State Department official said on Tuesday.

The potential consequences of the Turkish decision will have a “ripple effect” on other joint production projects, A. Wess Mitchell, assistant secretary of state for Europe and Eurasian affairs, said at the Heritage Foundation in Washington, D.C.

The Russian system is a major sticking point in U.S.-Turkish relations when the Trump administration’s National Security and National Defense strategies are placing new emphasis on NATO’s southern frontier and the eastern Mediterranean.

Mitchell conceded, “Turkey has legitimate security concerns” about Kurdish separatists inside its borders, Islamic terrorists operating in Syria and other neighboring countries and parts of its own citizenry possibly plotting another coup attempt.

At the same time, the United States can’t be quiet about Turkish jailing of American citizens rounded up in the wake of the failed coup and its forcible crackdown on internal dissent, as well as its looking to Moscow for sophisticated arms.

NATO needs to “keep Turkey pointed to the West for its future politically and strategically.”

He ticked off the reasons why Ankara remains “a critical partner” in NATO that includes the effort to defeat the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq, continuing counter-terrorism work throughout the Middle East with the alliance and hosting the air base at Incirlik, key for U.S. military operations in the region and a defense against Russian air intrusions.

Earlier, Mitchell noted Turkey “is the only country with the throw-weight” to counter Iran’s ambitions to dominate the region.

Turkey also has ports on both the Mediterranean and the Black Seas. Russia used defense of its naval base at Sevastopol in Crimea on the Black Sea as a major reason it needed to act in the Ukrainian province in 2014. That Kremlin move laid the groundwork for a pattern of aggressive military actions in Ukraine and constant threats to Baltic and central European neighbors to cut off their energy supplies and wreak havoc on their cyber and communication networks.

“We have to buttress the eastern Mediterranean to keep it on a permanent Western track,” he said.

Mitchell added this means working closely with Greece and Cyprus as well on resolving long-standing divisive issues that also involve Turkey in this important maritime domain.

“Russia is active in the Mediterranean” and has been so for years with a port in Syria, Mitchell said. A new dynamic is the presence of China, flashing its wealth and eagerness to invest in the region. Mitchell said Moscow and Beijing offer nations in southern and Eastern Europe different models of governance and economic development that the United States and the European Union need to address by showing their commitment to democratic values and willingness to invest in needed infrastructure in those nations.

That means “we need to be clear-eyed the challenges we face … until President Putin changes policies” away from threats of armed force and economic disruption and China’s enticements to join southern Europe and the eastern Mediterranean in its “One Belt/One Road” initiative. He termed the border regions of NATO as “a new playground for China” in his opening remarks to marks its emergence as a global power — not only economically but militarily with its naval base in Djibouti on the Horn of Africa.

On the defense front, Mitchell reassured American allies and partners that the United States is committed to the alliance and is demonstrating that in a number of ways — the European Reassurance Initiative building up the United States’ military presence on and around the continent, the sending of lethal defensive arms to Ukraine and Georgia to roll back separatists trying to throw those nations back into a Russian sphere of influence and showing the way in the alliance to meet the set goals on security spending and force modernization.

“We have been slow to recognize” the importance of issues — counterterrorism being more than a national policing responsibility and the continuing flow of migrants from war-torn Syria and economically-depressed North Africa — not only in the eastern Mediterranean but also in southern Europe as affecting overall security, he said.

“We have to stabilize Europe’s southern frontier” to keep those nations and the western Balkans “moored in the West.”

He expects at the alliance’s summit in Brussels next month that an agreement will be reached to “turn NATO’s attention to a southern vector” to address those challenges and the Kremlin’s stepped-up disinformation and political meddling campaigns.

  • Kypros

    As long as Erdogan is around, relations will be strained. His aggressive actions in both the Med around the Cyprus gas fields and Aegean against Greece strains relations with everyone further. The guy is bad news. Erdogan is starting to get pretty isolated, but Russia is courting him because they’d love to turn a NATO partner.

    • Duane

      I rather more suspect that Erdogan is using Putin and the S-400 buy to get what he wants from the US, which is to crack down on PKK and their alleged (by Turkey) allied Kurdish force, YPG.

      Note that Turkey has been saying for more than a year now that they are going to buy the S-400 …. they could have had it long before now.

      Just this week the US and Turkey came to agreement forcing YPG out of a major northern Syria town .. and Turkey’s FM is already gloating about it.

      Turkey knows where their bread is buttered, and that Putin cannot do it for them directly.

      • proudrino

        Turkey has a long history of playing both sides to get what it wants. The difference now is that NATO has so expanded they are not the only game in town. Just as easy to focus on Greece and Bulgaria to monitor the region than to deal with a dictator like Erdogan.

        • Duane

          Turkey will always, because of geography and culture, sit astride the meeting place of empires, east and west, and north and south. Turkey controls access to the Black Sea, and sits between an unstable middle east and Europe, and between Asia and both Europe and Africa. Turkey cannot be ignored.

          • proudrino


            You are correct but I don’t think it a matter of NATO or the US ignoring Turkey. Clearly, the dictatorship in place in Ankara is looking to Moscow not the West. Enemy of my enemy is my friend (and all of that). It doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to further investment, reliance, or cooperation with Turkey. There has to be a Plan B other than to claim that Turkey is too important to tick off and do whatever the heck they demand.

          • Duane

            We don’t just give in to Turkey. We just need to work with them. They are full fledged members of NATO since its founding … and it is the only member that is both European and Asian, and is the only Muslim majority member. So they necessarily aren’t going to be just like every other NATO member, and they have some very different challenges than, say, France or the UK or Norway.

            Right now the NATO member that seems to be trying hardest to P.O. the rest of its allies the most is the US, at the direction of Trump. Trump tried to blow up the Iran nuke deal, in direct opposition to France, the UK, and Germany and is unbelievably threatening sanctions on those 3 key NATO allies for the “crime” of complying with an agreement that they and the US signed just 3 years ago. To add further insult to injury, Trump just levied huge tariffs on our NATO allies, while chortling that “trade wars are easy to win”.

            Hey numbskull Trump: You don’t launch wars of any kind on your allies.

            Today it is the US – in the person of the stupid turkey in the White House – that is trying to blow up NATO … not Turkey the nation.

          • Kypros

            Oh please! Get off the Trump hate bandwagon already. He’s fixing a lot of the absolute screw ups from that incompetent fool we had for eight years. Thank God Hillary isn’t president.

          • Duane

            No bandwagon, just hard cold facts that Trump has sold us out to our enemies and is a traitor to our nation.

            You Trumpians always react to fact citings by attempting to pretend it is still 2016 with an election going on. It is 2018 and now we know for a fact what Trump is. It was never Trump v. Obama anyway. Recognizing Trump for the utterly incompetent traitor to America that he is does not require one to be a former Obama voter – I certainly never was one. Two bad Presidents do not equal a good one. The US has not had a President who was both competent and faithful to his oath of office since George H.W. Bush, unfortunately. Trump will easily go down in history as the worst President in history, the worst scoundrel to ever occupy the oval office.

            Facts …. all facts.

          • Kypros

            Lol! He may be a scoundrel but he loves his nation and after 8 disastrous years of an America hating president, that’s good enough. And it will take a monumental effort to out-do Obama as the worst president ever. I’m thankful every day that Trump is president and not that demented crook, Hillary. And voicing your opinion, does not make it “fact”. Sorry.

          • Duane

            Trump doesn’t love his nation. His acts during the campaign in colluding and illegally collaborating with America’s greatest enemy, Putin’s Russia, and his acts in office trying to destroy our Constitution and the rule of law, and in literally giving his sponsor Putin exactly what he has long desired, the destruction of America’s alliances with NATO, completely give the lie to Trump’s fake love of country.

            Trump’s love of country is no less fake than his Trump U scam.

            Trump loves Trump, period. That is all … everybody else to him is just a tool to be used, abused, and discarded, as Trump uses and abuses and will abandon you and all his supporters and the United States of America.

          • Kypros

            Oh my, it sounds like you must have evidence of collusion??!? You’d better present that to someone, quickly! At first I figured, he’s better than electing that treasonous, crooked, disgusting Hillary. But, he has FAR, FAR, FAR exceeded my expectations! TRUMP 2020! I guess you can vote for Hillary again if you want, she seems to not want to go away. LOL!

          • Ako Madamosiya 毛むくじゃら

            If you are a democrat playing in the left field, yes. Otherwise 55% thinks of him to have balls unlike his predecessors.

      • publius_maximus_III

        Next to Israel, I think the Kurds are the best allies we have in the ME, definitely better than the Turks, now going on 100 years since their genocide of ethnic Armenians, still without admitting any guilt. Fugem.

        • Duane

          Kurds are just like any ethnic group or nationality or other human tribe, in that they are not all alike. The Kurdish PKK is recognized by the US and most nations as a terrorist group … while the Kurdish YPG is not, and is considered by the US and most allied nations as a valid Kurdish military force. The rub is that Turkish leaders believe that YPG supports PKK, and thus treats them alike. The US and most nations disagree with the Turks on that point, or at least don’t believe that YPG is either terrorist or a direct threat to Turkey.

          These kinds of disagreements are not uncommon amongst allies. We have to respect Turkey’s concerns on YPG, just as Turkey must respect US and NATO concerns about Turkey’s threatened (so far) purchase of the S-400 from Russia.

  • Ed L

    I say give the F-35’s Abrams, 155 artillery etc to the Kurdish Military forces

    • Centaurus

      Erdogan really makes the case for selling the Kurds refurbished 210mm Heavy Artillery + shells and AT-4 Javelins just like the Ukrainians get , to plug the arses of Putin’s LGM. Well, a carnivore can dream ? ? ?

    • waveshaper1

      Don’t forget that US Nuke Sharing crap we have with the Turks; I’m sure the Kurds would appreciate some US gifted F-35’s and them new B61-12’s that come with this package deal.

      • publius_maximus_III

        They showed just how reliable an ally they are when they cut off all the power to our base in Turkey during Erdogan’s purge of his domestic enemies. Da Trumpster ain’t gonna put up wid none of dat chit

        • waveshaper1

          We had similar problems with Turkey back when they invaded Cyprus in 1974 and the Turks have played this Russian fear/game card before. Here’s just a very few highlights;

          – US reaction; After the hostilities of 1974, the United States applied an arms embargo on Turkey in 1975. The embargo on Turkey was lifted after 3 years by President Carter/Congress.

          – Turkeys response to the US Arms Embargo; Turkey suspended the use of some Key US/NATO bases in Turkey. Turkey finally permitted the United States to reopen its four strategic intelligence installations for monitoring Soviet military activities that were shut down for three years in retaliation for the U.S. arms embargo against Turkey. This only happened after the US Congress caved and repealed the ban on the sale of U.S. arms to Turkey.

        • Duane

          What has Trump done to punish Turkey for that? Besides nothing.

          What has Trump done to Russia for interfering with the 2016 election, besides nothing? Oh, I take that back. Trump is punishing Putin by starting a trade war with our NATO allies, which is really breaking Putin’s heart!

          What has Trump done to China for militarizing its SCS fake islands, besides nothing? Oh, I take that back … as punishment of the PRC, he ordered the rescue of PRC’s largest telecom company, ZTE, a known Chinese international spying organization.

          You Trumpkins just slay me with your Trump worship and Trump blinders. It is difficult to comprehend such willful blindness. But you guys are living proof.

          • publius_maximus_III

            Let me try to answer your questions:

            Q. What has Trump done to punish Turkey for that? Besides nothing.
            A. LCS

            Q. What has Trump done to Russia for interfering with the 2016 election, besides nothing? Oh, I take that back. Trump is punishing Putin by starting a trade war with our NATO allies, which is really breaking Putin’s heart!
            A. Ummm, LCS?

            Q. What has Trump done to China for militarizing its SCS fake islands, besides nothing? Oh, I take that back … as punishment of the PRC, he ordered the rescue of PRC’s largest telecom company, ZTE, a known Chinese international spying organization.
            A. LCS, I’m sure of it — three letters!

          • publius_maximus_III

            You Trumpkins just slay me with your Trump worship and Trump blinders. It is difficult to comprehend such willful blindness. But you guys are living proof.

            I did vote for Trump, but only because I saw Clinton as a lying, self-serving, extremely dangerous alternative.

      • Scott1945est

        The US shares NO nukes with other countries.

        They store them overseas, but it’s ALL under American control.

        • waveshaper1

          Yep, that’s definitely one of the many peacetime protocols covered in the US Nuclear Sharing Agreement. The PAL codes also remain under US control.

          In case of war, the weapons (B61s) are to be mounted on the participating/host countries US Nuke capable/certified F-16/Panavia Tornado warplanes for older model B-61s or US Nuke capable/certified F-35 warplanes for the new B61-12s.

          • Scott1945est

            And always under US guard. 😉

      • Rocco

        Why would you even think this???

  • proudrino

    NATO needs to “keep Turkey pointed to the West for its future politically and strategically.”

    Whose political and strategic future? Turkey or NATO? In a lot of ways, NATO is fighting for relevance in the new world order (after NATO became less about collective security against Russia and more of a political rite of passage for Eastern European nations).

    The sad reality is that Turkey has decided to revert back a few centuries and is no longer interested in engaging with Western Europe. That isn’t likely to change anytime soon and NATO/US strategic decisions should not rely on Turkish cooperation. As Turkey becomes a puppet state of Russia, NATO and the US need to forge new alliances instead of trusting Erdogan.

    • Refguy

      I agree with your comments on NATO, but you’re missing what may be a major issue pushing Turkey to look to the East. As long as Greece continues to veto Turkish membership in the EU, Turkey has just cause for questioning why it should be committed to going to war in support of a group that won’t treat it as an equal in terms of trade and economics.

      • Scott1945est

        Don’t blame Greece.
        The Turks STILL won’t admit to the Armenian genocide, and THAT is what is holding them up.

    • Duane

      Turkey will never be a puppet state of Russia.

      What are you smoking?

  • publius_maximus_III

    Would not do for those Ottomans to help das Poot fine-tune his latest AA system using our latest fighter now, would it? Erdogan has been steering his little dictatorship away from Western values and NATO for some time now, definitely not following in the path of his predecessor, Ataturk, who tried to keep his country’s civilian government separate from it’s majority religion (Islam). Not any more.

    Recall that incident reported in USNI News a few years ago where three of our sailors on leave in Istanbul, in civilian clothes, were confronted by a crowd of 20-somethings who tried to suffocate them by putting some clear plastic bags over their heads? Fortunately they got away, but someone filmed the whole incident on their smart phone.

    Keep your friends close, but your (soon-to-be) enemies closer.

  • publius_maximus_III

    We should give Hungary everything we are giving Turkey now.

  • Secundius

    The Russians had a S-400 Missile Battery set up at the Hemeimeem Air Base in Syria since at least 16 December 2015. Sure didn’t do the Syrian Government any good on the Nights of 12-13 January 2017, when Two Israeli F-35I Adirs surgically removed a warehouse off Pantsir-S1’s and a battery of S-300 guarding the Presidential Palace of Bashar al-Assad in Damascus…

    • Duane

      The S-400 wasn’t set up to defend Damascus in southern Syria …it was set up to defend Russian operations in the north. Damascus was instead under the coverage of an Iranian-operated S-300 in the immediate metro Damascus area. The difference between S-300 and S-400 is mainly in range of radar detection and range of interceptor performance. The S-300 should easily have been able to see and engage the two-flight of F-35Is, if Russian claims of ability to detect F-35 are remotely true, given that the two aircrfaft flew right over downtown Damascus, and even buzzed Assad’s presidential palace after they destroyed the S-300 installation then took out a couple warehouses where Iran stored – get this – S-300 radars and missiles staged for installation in Lebanon by Hezbollah!

      After the successful destruction by the F-35Is, the Iranian government went on social media and claimed that the “Russians gave away the codes to Israel” as an excuse for their debacle.

      The Israelis never claimed official credit for the successful attack, the first use in battle of the F-35. That is typical of Israel, as they prefer to not speak at all whenever they beat their middle eastern antagonists like a drum. It keeps the crazies from overreacting.

      • Secundius

        I don’t recall saying that the S-400 was set up in and/or near Damascus “Duane”! Please be free to point out where I DID. And Why would the Israeli’s do so? It’s their “Ace In the Hole Trump Card”, IF they ever decided to Fly into Iranian Airspace to destroy Iranian Nuclear Weapons Production Facilities…

      • Kypros

        One example of the alliance between Russia and Iran starting to crack. I can see their interests starting to diverge in Syria as time goes on.

  • MaskOfZero

    The US should look upon Turkey’s interest in Russian weapons as a sign and as a justification for stopping all advanced weapons from being sold to Turkey–especially the F-35.

    You would have to be crazy or a traitor to allow Turkey to buy, maintain, and manufacture parts for the F-35.

    For years, a stable ‘secular’ military dictatorship has kept Turkey relatively sane–but now, the Islamist Erdogan, the Muslim Hitler, is rising to power. Erdogan ‘faked’ a political coup recently in order to consolidate power away from the secular influences (he used the fake coup as an excuse to summarily murder and imprison his political enemies) –Islamist dictator Erdogan now completely controls Turkey.

    The current Turkey is not the Turkey which the US and the West reluctantly allied with decades ago (the enemy of my enemy is my friend)–today’s Turkey is effectively run by those with an ISIS ideology.

    For a long time, Turkey has harbored the ambition of being a world player in the arms market. Turkey buys military tech, then copies and sells it on the secondary and tertiary arms markets. (to dictators, authoritarians and failed states)

    Read the ‘translated’ words of Erdogan and you will have no doubt about his global ambitions, and the resurgence of the Ottoman Empire.

    Trim sales of advanced weapons to Turkey–and stop basting the Turkey with US money.

    Turkey is not our friend, and Erdogan will NEVER be a friend to the West.

    (Besides, Turkey is an Islamofascist state which oppresses its own people–especially the Kurds–and the US should keep well clear of the coming explosion by leaving Turkey and expelling it from NATO.)

    • Secundius

      Agreed! But Turkey’s is also trying to get their hands on AV-8B “Harrier II’s” as a Fall Back Plan in case the F-35 Plan fails…