Turkey's withdrawal from NATO orbit disturbing - Pentagon

Turkey’s distance from the NATO alliance and its rapprochement with Moscow is a worrying issue, the U.S. Secretary of Defence Mark Esper said.

“Regarding Syria and Turkey, I’m most worried about Turkey’s connection with Russia. It is disturbing that Turkey is withdrawing from NATO’s orbit,” Russian news agency TASS quoted Esper as saying. 

Tensions have been growing between Turkey and the United States over Turkey’s decision to proceed with the purchase of Russia’s S-400 missile defence system, prompting Washington to remove Turkey from the F-35 fighter jet programme. 

The United States has also threatened Turkey with sanctions over the purchase.

Washington says S-400s are not compatible with NATO’s defence network and that much of the F-35 strength lies in its stealth capabilities so the ability to detect those capabilities would jeopardise the long-term security of the F 35 programme.

Turkey, for its part, maintains the S-400 would not be integrated into NATO systems and would not pose a threat to the alliance.  

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu on Saturday said while the United States has criticised Turkey’s purchase of the Russian system, NATO did not raise any objection the move.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg has repeatedly said all countries had the right to buy the weapon and defence system of their choice, Çavuşoğlu said.