Senators urge Trump to sanction Turkey for accepting Russian missile shipment

Senators urge Trump to sanction Turkey for accepting Russian missile shipment

Top senators on Friday called on President TrumpDonald John TrumpEsper sidesteps question on whether he aligns more with Mattis or Trump Warren embraces Thiel label: 'Good' As tensions escalate, US must intensify pressure on Iran and the IAEA MORE to impose sanctions on Turkey after the NATO ally accepted delivery of a Russian air defense missile system, a purchase U.S. officials fear could be used to gather intelligence on the American-made F-35. 

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan “has chosen a perilous partnership with [Russian President Vladimir PutinVladimir Vladimirovich PutinThe peculiar priorities of Adam Schiff Fox News's Shep Smith blasts Trump over 'xenophobic eruption' on minority lawmakers Juan Williams: GOP in a panic over Mueller MORE] at the expense of Turkey’s security, economic prosperity and the integrity of the NATO alliance,” Sens. James InhofeJames (Jim) Mountain InhofeThis week: House Democrats voting to hold Barr, Ross in contempt House and Senate head for showdown on must-pass defense bill Overnight Defense: House approves 3 billion defense bill | Liberal sweeteners draw progressive votes | Bill includes measure blocking Trump from military action on Iran MORE (R-Okla.) and Jack ReedJohn (Jack) Francis ReedPentagon chief nominee: 'We need to get back on the diplomatic channel' with Iran Overnight 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 MORE (D-R.I.), the chairman and ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, and Sens. Jim RischJames (Jim) Elroy RischThis week: House Democrats voting to hold Barr, Ross in contempt Congress mobilizes on cyber threats to electric grid Overnight Defense: House approves 3 billion defense bill | Liberal sweeteners draw progressive votes | Bill includes measure blocking Trump from military action on Iran MORE (R-Idaho) and Bob MenendezRobert (Bob) MenendezDem senators demand GOP judicial group discloses donors Senate passes .5B border bill, setting up fight with House Senate to vote on blocking Trump's Saudi arms deal as soon as this week MORE (D-N.J.), the chairman and ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said in a statement.

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The lawmakers urged Trump to impose Congressional sanctions as part of the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act, which penalizes U.S. partners that buy Russian military equipment.

“On a strong bipartisan basis, Congress has made it clear that there must be consequences for President Erdogan’s misguided S-400 acquisition,” they said, referring to the surface-to-air missile defense system from Russia.  

The lawmakers also called on the Defense Department to proceed with the termination of Turkey’s participation in the F-35 program.

Ankara earlier on Friday took delivery of a shipment of the S-400.

Acting Defense Secretary Mark Esper told reporters Friday that the Pentagon was aware of the delivery and that he would speak to Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar later in the day.

The Pentagon announced in early June that it would pull Turkey from participation in building and maintaining the F-35 Lightning II fighter, moving industrial operations to other countries, unless Ankara gives up its plans to purchase S-400.

Turkey, one of nine partner countries involved in the F-35, has plans to eventually buy at least 100 of the advanced fighter jets and was expected to play a significant role in sustaining the aircraft in later years.

In the past year, however, Ankara has refused to be swayed from its plan to buy the S-400, which is not compatible with NATO systems. U.S. officials fear it will allow Moscow to gather closely guarded information on the Lockheed Martin-made F-35.

The department has already pulled Turkish applicants from a training program that teaches pilots to fly the F-35, and it ordered that all Turkish personnel linked to the F-35 program leave the United States by July 31.

Former acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan said in a letter to the Turkish defense minister that the penalties would take place by July 31.

Administration officials hoped it would be able to convince Turkey to abandon the S-400 sale by instead offering Ankara the U.S.-developed Patriot air and missile defense system, made by Raytheon.

Turkey did not take the offer, however, as Washington will not relinquish the system’s sensitive missile technology.

“Unfortunately, President Erdogan rejected multiple attempts by the United States to preserve our strategic relationship while enabling Turkey to defend its airspace with F-35 aircraft and the Patriot air defense system,” the senators wrote.

“Turkey is an important NATO ally ... But lasting improvement to our cooperation will not be possible as long as President Erdogan remains fixated on deepening ties with Vladimir Putin at the expense of the economic prosperity of Turkey and the security of the NATO alliance,” they wrote.

In a separate statement, Sens. 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.), Jeanne ShaheenCynthia (Jeanne) Jeanne ShaheenCrucial for Congress to fund life-saving diabetes research Overnight 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 MORE (D-N.H.), Thom TillisThomas (Thom) Roland TillisGOP senator: 'Outrageous' to say Trump's tweets about Democratic congresswomen are racist Top North Carolina newspapers editorial board to GOP: 'Are you OK with a racist president?' Republicans make U-turn on health care MORE (R-N.C.) and Chris Van HollenChristopher (Chris) Van HollenOvernight 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 Republicans say they're satisfied with 2020 election security after classified briefings MORE (D-Md.) said the S-400 was “created to target and destroy” the F-35, and that the United States “will not allow sensitive U.S. military technology in the F-35 to be at risk.”

“Turkey cannot have both Russian and American defense equipment sitting side by side,” the senators wrote. “As long as President Erdogan insists on putting U.S. and NATO assets at risk by acquiring Russian defense technology, the U.S. will withhold our fifth-generation fighter jets and apply our normal restrictions on any government that purchases Russian military equipment.”

Lankford, Shaheen, Tillis and Van Hollen earlier this year led an effort to include a provision in the Senate’s version of the annual defense authorization bill to prohibit the transfer of the F-35 to Turkey should it buy the S-400.