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 TrumpJimmy Carter: 'I hope there's an age limit' on presidency White House fires DHS general counsel: report Trump to cap California trip with visit to the border 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 PutinFeehery: Impeachment fever bad for Democratic governing vision Taliban travels to Moscow after Trump declares talks dead Russians tune out Vladimir Putin MORE] at the expense of Turkey’s security, economic prosperity and the integrity of the NATO alliance,” Sens. James InhofeJames (Jim) Mountain InhofeHouse rejects GOP motion on replacing Pentagon funding used on border wall Republicans wary of US action on Iran Is the Senate ready to protect American interests in space? MORE (R-Okla.) and Jack ReedJohn (Jack) Francis ReedHouse rejects GOP motion on replacing Pentagon funding used on border wall Is the Senate ready to protect American interests in space? Trump moving forward to divert .6B from military projects for border wall MORE (D-R.I.), the chairman and ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, and Sens. Jim RischJames (Jim) Elroy RischOvernight Defense: GOP wary of action on Iran | Pence says US 'locked and loaded' to defend allies | Iran's leader rules out talks with US Republicans wary of US action on Iran Trump at a pivotal crossroads on Iran MORE (R-Idaho) and Bob MenendezRobert (Bob) MenendezAs NFIP reauthorization deadline looms, Congress must end lethal subsidies Senate Democrats warn Trump: Don't invite Putin to G-7 Pelosi warns Mnuchin to stop 'illegal' .3B cut to foreign aid MORE (D-N.J.), the chairman and ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said in a statement.

ADVERTISEMENT

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 LankfordDemocrats press for action on election security GOP group's ad calls on Graham to push for election security: 'Are you still trying?' Manufacturing group leads coalition to urge Congress to reauthorize Ex-Im Bank MORE (R-Okla.), Jeanne ShaheenCynthia (Jeanne) Jeanne ShaheenLewandowski launches campaign-style website during Capitol Hill hearing Democrats headed for a subpoena showdown with White House Overnight Defense: Dems grill Trump Army, Air Force picks | House chair subpoenas Trump Afghanistan negotiator | Trump officials release military aid to Ukraine MORE (D-N.H.), Thom TillisThomas (Thom) Roland TillisKavanaugh impeachment push hits Capitol buzz saw The 13 Republicans needed to pass gun-control legislation Bolton returns to political group after exiting administration MORE (R-N.C.) and Chris Van HollenChristopher (Chris) Van HollenProgressive tax-the-rich push gains momentum Senators pressure Trump to help end humanitarian crisis in Kashmir Democratic candidates are building momentum for a National Climate Bank 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.