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US excludes Turkey from Nato fighter jet project over Russian missiles

media Trump and Erdogan U.S. President Donald Trump talks to Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan at NATO headquarters in Brussels, Belgium July 11, 2018. Tatyana Zenkovich/Pool via REUTERS

The United States has expelled Turkey from Nato's F-35 stealth fighter jet programme after Ankara's purchase of a Russian missile defence system.

The move by Turkey to invest in the Russian S-400 air defence system breaks a pledge made by Nato member countries to no longer adopt Russian military hardware and also goes against numerous warnings from Western allies.

Washington condemned Ankara’s actions claiming that it was ‘impossible’ for Turkey to remain a part of the programme due to fears that the new Russian hardware would collect intelligence on the advanced capabilities of the new F-35 jets.

US-Turkey disagreements

Fadi Hakura, Chatham House’s Turkey expert, told RFI that recent political disagreements with the US had partly led to Turkey investing in Russian military technology.

“There is no doubt that Turkey’s dogged determination to purchase the S-400 system against the wishes of Washington results from a number of regional grievances and other issues.

“But the key is that Turkey felt slighted by Washington’s failure to robustly condemn the failed coup in 2016 and its failure to extradite Fethullah Gulen," whom Ankara accuses of masterminding the coup, and who is currently residing in Pennsylvania in the US.

Fethullah Gulen in Pennsylvania, in 2016. REUTERS/Charles Mostoller/File Photo

Turkey’s foreign ministry described the decision as "unfair" and not based on "legitimate reasons". 

Washington also reiterated the fact that the US had on multiple occasions offered Turkey the opportunity to purchase Patriot missile defence systems. However, Ankara chose to do business with Moscow instead.

Turkey out of Nato?

The White House also repeated that the US ‘still greatly values’ its strategic relationship with Turkey and that it will ‘continue to operate with Turkey extensively.’

But Hakura fears the latest developments could be a sign of the increasingly ramped up rhetoric becoming permanently manifest.

“I think Turkey is now on the road to further estrangement from Nato and in the foreseeable future it is not far-fetched to say that Turkey could be outside of Nato.”

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