Trump Reluctant to Punish Turkey Over S-400 Deal With Russia: 'It's Not Really Fair'

President lamented American jobs would be lost if U.S. did not sell F-35 jets to Turkey

President Donald Trump during a Cabinet meeting at the White House, July 16, 2019.
Alex Brandon,AP

President Donald Trump on Tuesday lamented U.S. prohibition on selling billions of dollars worth of F-35 stealth fighter jets to Turkey following its purchase of S-400 missile defense system from Russia. 

Trump's remarks were his first about next steps after Turkey defiantly rebuffed U.S. warnings and started taking delivery of Russia's S-400 air defense system last week.

"We're working through it, we'll see what happens. But it's not really fair," Trump told reporters at a Cabinet meeting at the White House.

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Trump again appeared to blame his predecessor, Barack Obama, for failing to sell America's best alternative to the Russian S-400s -- Patriot missiles, made by Raytheon Co. He said Turkey was "forced to buy another missile system."

"Because of the fact that (Turkey) bought a Russian missile, we're not allowed to sell them billions of dollars' worth of aircraft. It's not a fair situation," Trump said, lamenting the jobs that would be lost.

Speaking across town at his confirmation hearing to become Trump's defense secretary, Army Secretary Mark Esper told a Senate committee that Turkey could not have both the S-400 and F-35.

Esper said he told Turkey's defense minister: "You can either have the S-400 or you can have the F-35. You cannot have both."