Turkey says it will go to Russia if US won't sell it military equipment

Turkish leaders on Wednesday said they would look to Russia for fighter jets and air defense systems if the United States will not sell Ankara the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter and the Patriot anti-missile system.

Reuters reported that Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu repeated the NATO ally’s insistence that it will move ahead and buy the Russian S-400 surface-to-air missile defense system, calling it a done deal. He added that Turkey might buy more Russian military systems should the United States withhold its own equipment.

“If the United States is willing to sell, then we’ll buy Patriots. However, if the United States doesn’t want to sell, we may buy more S-400s or other systems,” Çavuşoğlu told Turkish broadcaster NTV.

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“If the F-35s don’t work out, I will again have to procure the jets I need from elsewhere ... There are [Russian] SU-34, SU-57 and others. I will absolutely meet my needs from somewhere until I can produce it myself,” he added.

At issue is Ankara’s plan to buy the S-400, which U.S. officials fear will allow Moscow to gather information on the F-35 should Washington allow Turkey to take delivery of the advanced fighter jet. The United States has been pressuring Turkey to buy the U.S.-made Patriot system instead.

Talks between the two sides, however, have not gone well, and last week the Pentagon announced it was suspending deliveries and activities related to Turkey’s participation in the F-35 program.

Turkey, in return, has doubled down on its plans to buy the S-400, with President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan saying Wednesday that the July delivery date for the first S-400s could be moved forward.

Erdoğan, who spoke with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow this week, told reporters on his return trip from Russia that his government was under constant pressure to give up the S-400 deal and also alluded that its delivery could be accelerated.

“We answer that ‘This deal is done, everything is settled.' The delivery of the S-400 missile defense system was to be in July. Maybe it can be brought forward,” Erdoğan said, according to Sabah newspaper.

The issue is threatening to further deepen tensions between the United States and Turkey, which are already at odds over the U.S. military strategy in northern Syria and sanctions on Iran.

Complicating matters is Turkey’s involvement in the F-35 program, with key parts of the jet made in the country. The Pentagon has said it is looking for alternatives should it need to switch the supply chain.

Congress has been watching the issue closely, and on Tuesday the top four members of the Senate Armed Services and Foreign Relations committees warned Turkey it will need to make a choice between the United States and Russia for its defense needs.

“By the end of the year, Turkey will have either F-35 advanced fighter aircraft on its soil or a Russian S-400 surface-to-air missile defense system. It will not have both,” the senators wrote in a New York Times op-ed.

“We are committed to taking all necessary legislative action to ensure this is the case.”