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There is at least a partial alternative: you can get involved in the supply chain.

For the F-35, other countries were asked to pay into the R&D budget, with the promise that large contributors could obtain exclusive manufacturing rights to certain components. I've seen a lot of grumbling about this, with people claiming it traded cost savings for a military risk that the planes will be useless (or at least lack spares) if things go wrong for those suppliers.

This is sort of true, but the missing insight is that the dependency is also a goal. It's not going to allay fears that F-35s are calling home with telemetry or have compromised software, but it does help create reciprocal interests in the same way as inviting in a foreign military base.

I think how reassuring that mutual dependency is will depend heavily on how easily Lockheed routes around Turkey now that the US is cutting them out of the F-35 program.

That's a very good point. Turkey is obviously the odd man out on the buyer list, and it seems like a clear case of economic and political considerations clashing with the military rationale of only selling to firm (and easily-defended) friends.

I think it extends the metaphor to NATO very well actually. A mutual-defense alliance gradually turned into a political and economic alliance, and now it's not clear how well the original proposition can be trusted. RAND, at least, thinks Estonia and Latvia can't be actively defended and couldn't be retaken without bombing campaigns in Russian territory. So suddenly, the strength (or at least universality) of that agreement becomes an open question.

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