Senate bill would make Turkey choose between US fighter jets, Russian air defense

A bipartisan group of senators introduced a bill Thursday that would prohibit the United States from transferring F-35 fighter jets to Turkey until Ankara abandons its plans to buy a Russian air defense system.

“Turkey is an important NATO ally and willing partner in addressing a number of U.S. national security priorities,” Sen. James LankfordJames Paul LankfordOvernight Defense: House approves 3 billion defense bill | Liberal sweeteners draw progressive votes | Bill includes measure blocking Trump from military action on Iran Senators urge Trump to sanction Turkey for accepting Russian missile shipment Acosta on shaky ground as GOP support wavers MORE (R-Okla.) said in a statement. “It’s concerning that Turkey would seek close defense cooperation with Russia, whose authoritarian ruler seeks to undermine NATO and U.S. interests at every turn.”

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Lankford introduced the bill with Sens. Jeanne ShaheenCynthia (Jeanne) Jeanne ShaheenPoll: McConnell is most unpopular senator How to reduce Europe's dependence on Russian energy Epstein charges show Congress must act to protect children from abuse MORE (D-N.H.), Thom TillisThomas (Thom) Roland TillisThe Hill's Morning Report — Trump applauds two-year budget deal with 0 billion spending hike Republicans scramble to contain Trump fallout McConnell says Trump is not a racist, but calls for better rhetoric MORE (R-N.C.) and Chris Van HollenChristopher (Chris) Van HollenOvernight Energy: USDA expected to lose two-thirds of research staff in move west | EPA hails Trump's work on reducing air pollution | Agency eyes reducing inspections of nuclear reactors USDA expected to lose two-thirds of research staff in move to Kansas City Lawmakers pay tribute to late Justice Stevens MORE (D-Md.).

The bill would require the Trump administration to certify that Turkey is not buying a Russian S-400 long-range air-defense system before Ankara can take delivery of an F-35.

“Make no mistake – the Kremlin is an adversary of the United States and many of our NATO allies,” Shaheen said in a statement. “The prospect of Russia having access to U.S. aircraft and technology in a NATO country, Turkey, is a serious national and global security risk.”

The bill is the latest effort from U.S. lawmakers and officials to convince Turkey not to buy Russia’s S-400.

U.S. officials are concerned the S-400 could be used to gather information on the F-35, the most advanced U.S. aircraft. The United States and other NATO allies have also warned the S-400 system will not work with other NATO defense systems, and that Turkey could be subject to U.S. sanctions against those who do business with Russia’s defense industry.

“The S-400 is a computer. The F-35 is a computer. You don’t hook your computer to your adversary’s computer and that’s basically what we would be doing,” Katie Wheelbarger, acting assistant secretary of Defense for international security affairs, told Reuters earlier this month.

Reuters reported this month that U.S. officials are considering freezing preparations for delivering the F-35 to Turkey should it proceed with the S-400 purchase.

The same day of the report, Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the United States will “have a hard time reconciling” delivery of the F-35 if Turkey follows through on buying the S-400.

Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti, head of U.S. European Command, told Congress this month he would recommend that the United States withhold the delivery of the jet if Turkey buys the Russian system.

The Trump administration is trying to persuade Turkey to buy the U.S.-made Patriot system instead, but Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said he will not go back on the deal with the Russians.

“It is out of the question for us to revoke the S-400 deal,” Erdogan said this month. “Such an immoral act would not suit us.”