Acting US Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan said on Tuesday that he expected to resolve a dispute with Turkey over its purchase of Russia’s S-400 air defense system, a day after the United States halted the delivery of equipment related to the F-35 aircraft to Ankara, Al Jazeera reported.
The US is at an inflexion point in a years-long standoff with Turkey, a NATO ally, after failing to persuade President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan that buying a Russian air defense system would compromise the security of F-35 aircraft.
On Monday the Pentagon said it had suspended delivery of equipment related to the stealth F-35 fighter jet “pending an unequivocal Turkish decision to forgo delivery of the S-400.”
The tough step came after months of warnings from Washington that Turkey’s adoption of Russian missile technology alongside US fighter jets would pose a threat to the F-35 technology and endanger Western defenses.
The purchase of a Russian system is highly unusual for a member of NATO, the Western alliance forged to counter the Soviet Union.
The US suspension announcement came two days before the foreign ministers from NATO’s 29 members were due in Washington to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the alliance.
Last week Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu met in Turkey with his Russian counterpart, Sergey Lavrov, and insisted that the S-400 purchase would go ahead.
But on Monday Shanahan expressed optimism that the US and Turkey would find a way out of the crisis by persuading Turkey to buy the Patriot defense system instead of the S-400s.
“I expect we’ll solve the problem so that they have the right defense equipment in terms of Patriots and F-35s,” Shanahan told reporters at the Pentagon.
Shanahan added that he expected the US to ultimately carry out the delivery of F-35s currently at Luke Air Force Base to Turkey after resolving the dispute. Turkish pilots are receiving training on the two aircraft at the base in Arizona.