Russia and NATO-member Turkey are in talks over the opportunity of creating a new fighter jet, Russian government officials stated Wednesday, a step that might further challenge the U.S. and Ankara’s standing in the Western military alliance.
The move came as President Vladimir Putin hosted his Turkish counterpart, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, at a significant Russian aviation present on the outskirts of Moscow, a meeting which served mostly as a showcase for the two leaders’ burgeoning partnership.
The two sides held “technical consultations” on the joint creation of a fighter jet and “initial talks” on developing a Turkish fighter aircraft, Russian media cited officials from Russia’s Federal Service for Military-Technical Cooperation as saying. The body reports directly to Putin.
No extra details have been provided. The discussions, although tentative, are likely to raise additional alarms in Washington, which has strenuously protested against Turkey’s recent purchase of the S-400 Russian missile defense system.
U.S. officials worry Russia may use the S-400s in Turkey to gather intelligence on the United States’ F-35 fighter jet. In response, the United States has canceled Turkey’s participation in the manufacturing and buy of the F-35 stealth aircraft.
Meanwhile, U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee members urged President Trump on Tuesday to stage additional sanctions on Turkey for the acquisition.
The pair then admired Russia’s newest fighter jet, the Sukhoi Su-57, which was unveiled on the present, with Erdogan getting a peek inside the cockpit. Erdogan joked about purchasing the Su-57, however, stopped at that.
The Russian space agency Roscosmos even offered to ship a Turkish astronaut to the International Space Station.
Behind the scenes, there was no sign that the two countries had resolved their disagreements over the war in Syria.
Russia, the main military backer of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, has supported Syria’s months-long offensive within the country’s northern Idlib province, along the border with Turkey.
The Syrian advance has killed Turkish soldiers stationed as observers in Idlib and has sent hundreds of thousands of displaced Syrians towards the Turkish border, raising fears in Ankara of a new influx of refugees.
The two governments have argued over the White House’s refusal to extradite a Turkish cleric blamed by Erdogan’s government for serving to fuel a failed coup in 2016. Turkey also objects to the U.S. assist for a Syrian-Kurdish force allied with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, which has fought an extended insurgency against Turkey.