Former NATO commander Adm. James Stavridis has said it was unjust to criticize Turkey's decision to purchase the Russian-made S-400 air defense system, in fear that it may obtain confidential information and risk U.S.-made F-35 fighter jets.
Speaking at a panel Wednesday, Stavridis pointed out that a lot of NATO countries have been using Russian-made systems, but only Turkey's purchase has attracted objections.
The U.S. has expressed concern that Turkey's planned deployment of the S-400s could risk the security of some U.S.-made weapons and other technology used by NATO, including F-35 fighter jets. However, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said that the member states have the sovereign right to make decisions regarding their military purchases.
Pointing at unjust criticism, Stavridis underscored that Turkey is not the buyer of the system but a participant country in NATO's F-35 program. "The obtainment of the information of F-35s means that the project, which Turkey is part of, will be at risk," he added.
Turkey is an important partner in the international F-35 program and is the sole source in the world for some of the warplane's parts. Turkey has been in the F-35 program since 1999, and the Turkish defense industry has taken an active role in the production of the aircraft and invested $1.25 billion in the aircraft's development.
Criticizing some U.S. think tanks' views on Turkey, portraying it as neither friend nor foe, Stavridis said that the ties between the two countries are fine; however, there is some tactical discomfort due to differing interests. He underlined that he believes the two countries will be able to reach a compromise in the future.
In relation to the Turkey-U.S. safe zone plan for a terrorist-free 32-kilometer zone along the Syrian-Turkish border, administrated by Ankara, after the U.S. withdrawal, Stavridis said it is time to discuss the issue extensively as the safe zone will ease Turkey's security concerns.
Ankara and Washington have been at odds due to the latter's support for the PKK-affiliated People's Protection Units (YPG) under the pretext of fighting Daesh. The U.S. provided military training and gave truckloads of military support to the YPG, despite Ankara's warnings that the group shares organic organizational and operational links with the PKK. The PKK has claimed the lives of more than 40,000 people its 30-year terror campaign against Turkey. In a bid to ease the tension, the U.S. is thinking to set up a safe zone free of the YPG along the Turkish-Syrian border.
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