U.S. Congress responded with angry statements on Friday, after Ankara said the first parts of the S-400 Russian missile defense systems had been delivered on July 12. On the same day the full House voted on the NDAA bill that includes a provision that prohibits the transfer of U.S. made F-35 jets to Turkey. A similar bill has been passed by the Senate on June.
In response to news that Turkey began receiving the first shipment of the Russian S-400 surface-to-air-missile system, U.S. Senators Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) and Jim Risch (R-Idaho), ranking member and chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and Jack Reed (D-R.I.) and Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), ranking member and chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, released the following statement:
“By accepting delivery of the S-400 from Russia, President Erdogan has chosen a perilous partnership with Putin at the expense of Turkey’s security, economic prosperity and the integrity of the NATO alliance.
“On a strong bipartisan basis, Congress has made it clear that there must be consequences for President Erdogan’s misguided S-400 acquisition, a troubling signal of strategic alignment with Putin’s Russia and a threat to the F-35 program. As a result, we urge President Trump to fully implement sanctions as required by law under the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act. Additionally, while all F-35 material deliveries remain indefinitely suspended, we call on the Department of Defense to proceed with the termination of Turkey’s participation in the F-35 program.
“It did not have to come to this. But 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.
“Turkey is an important NATO ally, and we hope that the strategic relationship between the United States and Turkey will overcome this setback. 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.”
Congressman Michael McCaul (R-TX), Lead Republican of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and Congressman Eliot L. Engel (D-NY), Chairman of the Committee, made the following statement:
“We have warned Turkey and President Erdogan time and time again that taking delivery of the Russian S-400 air and missile defense system would have serious consequences for the U.S.-Turkey relationship, including Turkey’s participation in the F-35 program. We have warned them that obtaining the S-400 system would trigger sanctions. We have backed the Administration’s offer to sell the PATRIOT system to meet Turkey’s air and missile defense needs. President Erdogan was given a very clear choice. Unfortunately, he has clearly made the wrong one. That a NATO ally would choose to side with Russia and Vladimir Putin over the alliance and closer cooperation with the United States is hard to fathom. We call on the Department of State and the Department of Defense to terminate Turkey’s participation in the F-35 program and to sanction Turkish individuals doing business with the Russian defense sector, as required by law. Turkey and Erdogan must face stiff consequences for this decision.”
Under the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA), passed in 2017, the US has to penalize countries that buy weapons systems from Russia.
While US lawmakers demanded immediate sanctions against Ankara, the Pentagon and the State Department remained strangely silent. The Department of Defense only confirmed that the subject of the S-400s came up in the 30-minute conversation between Acting Secretary Mark Esper and his Turkish counterpart, but offered no further details. Before the call Esper told the reporters that U.S. position hasn’t been changed and that there would be a further announcement. But the briefing was “postponed indefinitely.”
The Turkish Defense Ministry said, however, that Akar “told his U.S. counterpart that Turkey remains under a serious air and missile threat and that purchase of S-400 defense systems was not an option but rather a necessity.”
FIRST MISSILES DELIVERED
The first parts of the S-400 air defense system were flown to a military air base near the capital Ankara, the Turkish Defense Ministry said, sealing Turkey’s deal with Russia which Washington had struggled for months to prevent.
“The delivery of parts belonging to the system will continue in the coming days,” Turkey’s Defense Industry Directorate said. “Once the system is completely ready, it will begin to be used in a way determined by the relevant authorities.”
Russia’s Federal Service for Military-Technical Cooperation confirmed on Friday it had started delivering the S-400 systems and that the deliveries would continue in accordance with an agreed schedule, the RIA news agency reported.
An unnamed military-diplomatic source was cited by Russia’s TASS news agency as saying a second delivery would be carried out by plane soon. A third delivery — of 120 guided missiles — will be carried out by ship at the end of the summer, the source was quoted as saying.
Twenty Turkish servicemen received training from Russia in May-June and 80 more Turkish servicemen will receive training to use the S-400 system, the source was quoted as saying.