Trump says US will not sell Turkey F-35s after Russian missile defense system purchase

President TrumpDonald John TrumpFive landmark moments of testimony to Congress Lindsey Graham basks in the impeachment spotlight Democrats sharpen their message on impeachment MORE on Tuesday said his administration will not sell American-made F-35 Lightning II fighters to Turkey over its decision to take delivery of a Russian missile defense system.

“We are now telling Turkey ... we're not going to sell you the F-35 fighter jets,” Trump said during a Cabinet meeting.

The commander in chief, however, offered no comment on whether he would impose congressionally mandated sanctions on Ankara, a NATO ally, over its purchase of the S-400 surface-to-air missile defense system, which U.S. officials fear could be used to gather intelligence on the F-35.

“It's a very tough situation that they're in. And it's a very tough situation that we've been placed in the United States,” Trump said. “With all of that being said, we're working through it. We'll see what happens, but it's not really fair.”

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The administration — which has long threatened to block F-35 sales to Turkey should it take delivery of the S-400 — has been quiet on its plans since last Friday, when Ankara received the Russian system in defiance of Washington.

Defense secretary nominee Mark Esper said on Friday that the Pentagon was aware of Turkey taking delivery of the S-400 and that its "position regarding the F-35 has not changed" but did not elaborate.

Esper said earlier on Tuesday that Turkey's decision “is the wrong one, and it's disappointing.”

Speaking during his Senate Armed Services Committee confirmation hearing, Esper also said that he has told his Turkish counterpart that “you can either have the S-400 or the F-35, you cannot have both.”

Turkey is one of nine partner countries involved in making and maintaining the F-35 advanced fighter jet and has plans to eventually buy at least 100 of the aircraft, a potential $9 billion sale.

But with Turkey’s purchase of the S-400, which is not compatible with NATO systems, U.S. officials fear Moscow will be able to gather classified information on the F-35, made by Lockheed Martin.

The S-400 buy also sets off a number of penalties that Pentagon leadership has said would take place at the end of the month, including moving F-35 maintenance roles from Turkey to another country and having all Turkish personnel linked to the program leave the United States.

The department also last month pulled Turkish applicants from a program that teaches pilots to fly the F-35.

In addition, top senators last week urged Trump to impose congressional sanctions on Turkey as part of the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act, which penalizes U.S. partners that buy Russian military equipment.

“On a strong bipartisan basis, Congress has made it clear that there must be consequences for [President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s] misguided S-400 acquisition,” according to a statement from Sens. James InhofeJames (Jim) Mountain InhofeEleven GOP senators sign open letter backing Sessions's comeback bid Overnight Defense: Pentagon says Syrian oil revenue going to Kurdish forces | GOP chair accuses Dems of using Space Force as leverage in wall fight | Dems drop plans to seek Bolton testimony GOP senator: House Democrats using Space Force as leverage in border wall fight MORE (R-Okla.) and Jack ReedJohn (Jack) Francis ReedIt's time for Congress to establish a national mental health crisis number America's avengers deserve an advocate Democrats unifying against Joe Kennedy Senate bid MORE (D-R.I.), the chairman and ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, and Sens. Jim RischJames (Jim) Elroy RischOvernight Defense: Protests at Trump's NYC Veterans Day speech | House Dems release Pentagon official's deposition transcript | Lawmakers ask Trump to rescind Erdogan invite Trump encounters GOP resistance to investigating Hunter Biden Graham: Schiff comment on inquiry findings 'full of crap' MORE (R-Idaho) and Bob MenendezRobert (Bob) MenendezTrump encounters GOP resistance to investigating Hunter Biden Fairness, tradition, and the Constitution demand the 'whistleblower' step forward Isolationism creeps back over America, as the president looks out for himself MORE (D-N.J.), the chairman and ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Trump on Tuesday blamed the Obama administration for Turkey's S-400 buy, incorrectly claiming that Obama officials would not sell Ankara the U.S.-developed Patriot air and missile defense system, driving the country to instead buy the Russian system.

Both administrations have tried to sell Turkey the Patriot — the Obama administration offering since at least 2013 — but the nation has turned down the deals as Washington would not include the system’s sensitive missile technology, which Ankara wants in order to build its own armaments.

“The Obama administration would not sell them the Patriot missiles. ... They would not sell them under any circumstance. And Turkey tried very hard to buy them, and they wouldn't sell them,” Trump incorrectly claimed.

"It was as soon as they found out that they were going to have to buy the [Russian] missiles ... all of a sudden everyone started rushing and saying to Turkey, 'OK, we'll send you the Patriot missile.’ But by that time, Turkey had already signed and paid a lot of money to Russia for the missile system.”

Turkey did not officially sign a deal with Russia for the S-400 until December 2017, well into Trump’s presidency. The deal had been in the works for more than a year.

Updated at 4:29 p.m.