Trump defends Turkey, Erdoğan 8 times during meeting with NATO chief
U.S. President Donald Trump during a press conference with NATO Genel Secretary Jens Stoltenberg on Tuesday defended Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan multiple times, while accusing France of trying to break away from the alliance.
Trump failed to criticise Turkey’s Erdoğan, even when asked about his country’s procurement of the Russian S-400 missile defence missile system, a source of ongoing tensions between Ankara and Washington.
Ankara and Moscow in Sept. 2017 signed a loan agreement for the supply of Russian S-400 air defence systems to Turkey. The United States and its NATO allies see the Russian system as incompatible with NATO systems and posing a security threat to the F-35 stealth fighter. Turkey began to take delivery of S-400 components in late July, prompting Washington to remove Turkey from the F-35 fighter jets programme.
The United States has also threatened Turkey with sanctions over the purchase of the system.
Below are the eight different instances Trump praised Turkey and Erdoğan on Tuesday, three of them without being prompted by a question, according a briefing published by the White House:
Q: What do you think about President Macron's criticism about NATO, saying that it is “brain dead”?
Trump: I know. And then, Turkey responded by saying that he was brain dead, which was interesting.
Q: Mr. President, will you meet with President Erdoğan here? And is there still --
Trump: I may. I may. I have a very good relationship. I may. I -- you know, it could be -- I don’t know -- I don’t know if it’s on the schedule. But if it isn’t, I would.
Q: And is there still a place for Turkey in NATO after its invasion of Syria a couple weeks ago?
Trump: Well, I’d have to ask the other countries. I mean, I have my own views, but I wouldn’t say it here.
We have a good relationship with Turkey. We left their border. We’ve been on their border long enough. They’re doing just fine on their border. We kept the oil. I kept the oil. The only people we have over there now -- we have a few that -- a small group that are fighting the remnants of ISIS because they’ve popped up again and we put them down.
Q: Is Turkey a dependable member of NATO? And when will you bring sanctions against them for buying Russian S-400 missiles?
Trump: Well, it's a country that I happen to have a good relationship with. We did a deal that everybody was very critical of and now they're saying it works. And I read a couple of stories just two days ago that, "Wow, that deal that Trump did with Turkey" -- because I want to get our soldiers out of there. I don’t want to be policing a border that's been fought over for 2,000 years. I want to get them out, but I wanted to keep the oil. And now they're saying, "That was a great deal that Trump made." I took a lot of heat over that deal.
No, I think that, as far as I'm concerned, I like Turkey and I get along very well with the President. And I -- you know, I would hope that he's a very good member of NATO, or will be. But we'll see what it is in the future.
Trump: And I will say this: Three weeks ago, when we got al-Baghdadi, Turkey was very helpful. We flew over areas that were totally controlled by Turkey and the Turkish military. We say, "We're coming." They absolutely were very supportive, actually. We didn’t tell them what we were doing and where we were going. Turkey could not have been nicer, could not have been more supportive. And that's important.
Q: But Turkey bought Russian missiles. How is that being on the side of NATO?
Trump: Well, they did. And they tried to buy ours, and the Obama administration said, "You can't have them." Okay?
Q: Would you give them to them?
Trump: The Obama administration said, "You can't have the Patriots. You can't -- we're not going to sell them to you." And they said that a number of times. And then Turkey went out and bought the Russian missile. So we'll see what happens. We're still talking about it. But they wanted to buy the Patriots; they tried to buy the Patriots. I think most of you know that. And they were shut off from buying the Patriots. They were not allowed to buy it. So that puts him in a bind also.
Trump: And, as you know, Turkey bought billions and billions -- it was one of the largest orders of F-35s, which is the greatest fighter jet in the world. And all they're going to do now is go to another country, whether it's Russia or China. They don’t want to do that; they want to buy the best planes. But, you know, they're making it very difficult for, in a way, themselves, but they're also making it difficult in Washington for them to buy that plane.
But they want to buy. They have a very big order out. They've already put up billions of dollars; they've given it to Lockheed Martin.