Trump’s Latest Defense of Turkey Makes Zero Sense

The US government stopped building jets in Turkey after the country bought an air defense system from Russia.

President Donald Trump addresses senior military leaders at the White House.Mark Wilson/Getty

President Donald Trump came to Turkey’s defense again on Twitter Tuesday morning in the latest attempt to fend off backlash over his decision to permit a Turkish invasion of northern Syria. His explanation, centering on Turkey’s financial support for an American fighter jet, was missing a few key facts though.

The F-35, a stealth jet produced primarily by Lockheed Martin, is the most expensive weapons program in government history at over $1 trillion spent to date and, more recently, a source of financial diplomacy for the United States. Seven countries, including Canada and Italy, have partnered with the United States to build more of the jets in the future, and several other countries have signed up to receive their own planes. 

Turkey, a NATO ally, used to be part of the F-35’s international program and “helped fund the development of the jet,” Defense News reported. But in July, the country was expelled from the partnership after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan agreed to purchase Russia’s S-400 missile defense system. That transaction “presented a risk that technological secrets from F-35s in Turkey could make their way to Russia,” the New York Times reported

Ellen Lord, the Pentagon’s acquisition chief, told reporters at the time that Turkey’s role in producing hundreds of F-35 parts would be phased out by March 2020. “At this point the Turks have made a decision,” she said. “We have said that the F-35 and the S-400 are incompatible. We will work forward at this point to unwind the relationship.” (The Pentagon did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Trump’s tweet.)

Trump’s tweet seemed to conveniently forget that piece of recent history. Turkey had occupied a key part in the supply chain for building new F-35s. Without Turkey, the Pentagon has to now spend more money to spread out the costs of replacing them. The cost of covering for Turkey, Lord said, would be “between $500 million and $600 million.” 

MORE HARD-HITTING JOURNALISM

In 2014, before Donald Trump announced his run for president, we knew we had to do something different to address the fundamental challenge facing journalism: how hard-hitting reporting that can hold the powerful accountable can survive as the bottom falls out of the news business.

Being a nonprofit, we started planning The Moment for Mother Jones, a special campaign to raise $25 million for key investments to make Mother Jones the strongest watchdog it can be. Five years later, readers have stepped up and contributed an astonishing $23 million in gifts and future pledges. This is an incredible statement from the Mother Jones community in the face of huge threats—both economic and political—against the free press.

Read more about The Moment and see what we've been able to accomplish thanks to readers' incredible generosity so far, and please join them today. Your gift will be matched dollar for dollar, up to $500,000 total, during this critical moment for journalism.

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate

We have a new comment system! We are now using Coral, from Vox Media, for comments on all new articles. We'd love your feedback.