Strict U.S. export controls may have led Turkey to purchase Russia’s S-400 air defense system, Airforce Secretary Heather Wilson suggested Tuesday.
Asked if Turkey’s deal to buy missile defense systems from Russia is causing problems with NATO, Wilson said: “I don’t connect those problems directly with the NATO alliance.”
Instead, she suggested that America’s strict export controls could be behind Ankara’s decision to purchase from Russia.
She said America’s strict export policy could be causing issues with its allies. For example, the U.S. will not sell unmanned aerial vehicles due to export controls, so its allies are forced to purchase them from China, which “creates a problem”.
Wilson said the U.S. “needs to figure out how to be better allies”, such as by “building things that are designed to be exportable from the very beginning so that we can all operate out of the same equipment rather than create problems”.
Wilson said Turkey’s purchase presents some operational problems which the departments of state and defense are discussing with Ankara.
“Particularly as it relates to the location of advanced aircraft in Turkey…like the F-35,” she said.
The U.S. is expected to begin delivery of F-35 fighters to Turkey later this year, with the first shipment slated for June 21.
“We would not want to have that aircraft close to the S-400. And so those discussions are going on with Turkey. And we are hopeful that that can be resolved before they would take delivery of that aircraft into Turkey itself.
Last December, Turkey announced it had concluded an agreement with Russia for the purchase of two S-400 systems by early 2020.
In 2014, Turkey placed an order for the first two F-35 jets for a projected fleet of 100 F-35A aircraft and plans to deploy the aircraft by 2019.