U.S. President Donald Trump says Turkey will be banned from purchasing American F-35 fighter jets after it acquired a Russian air defense system, but made no mention of sanctions that the US is legally required to impose in response, worrying lawmakers on both sides of the aisle, CNN reports.
Trump blamed the Obama administration for the situation and sympathizing with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan for the “very tough situation that they’ve been forced in.”
“Because they have a system of missiles that’s made in Russia, they’re now prohibited from buying over 100 planes,” Trump said of Turkey during in a Cabinet meeting.
“I would say that (F-35 manufacturer) Lockheed isn’t exactly happy. That’s a lot of jobs. And frankly I’ve always had a very good relationship” with Erdogan, Trump added.
In the tussle with Turkey over the Russian air defense system, a thorny mix of diplomatic and technological challenges are intersecting with the President’s affinity for strongmen leaders and his tendency to execute international diplomacy based on his personal relationships.
Behind the scenes, administration officials including Secretary of State Michael Pompeo and national security adviser John Bolton were pushing to move forward with sanctions, but Trump has been dragging his feet to preserve some sort of a relationship with Erdogan, according to a source familiar with internal deliberations at the NSC and State Department.