Four Senators introduced a bipartisan bill to prohibit the transfer of F-35s to Turkey – 26 Congressmen signed on letter with similar proposal
U.S. Congress escalates its reactions and increases pressure on Turkey, in order to force to cancel the purchase of the anti-aircraft Russian S-400 system. Four U.S. senators introduced on March 28 a bipartisan bill to prohibit the transfer of F-35s to Turkey, until the U.S. government certifies that the Turkish government will not cancel the purchase of the S-400 system.
At the same time, 26 members of the U.S. House of Representatives co-signed a letter to the Chairwoman of the House Appropriations Committee Nita Lowey and the Ranking Member Harold Rogers, urging them to include tough language in the 2020 State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs Appropriations Bill, concerning the delivery of F-35 jets to the Republic of Turkey. Among the signatories are, Congressmen John Sarbanes, Gus Bilirakis, Carolyn Maloney, Frank Pallone, Steve King, David Cicciline etc.
Turkey ignored the Congressional pressure and the following day, during a meeting with his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said that his country will proceed with the deal.
“We have agreed with Russia in the end and signed an agreement. This agreement is valid [and] we are discussing when the delivery will be,” Cavusoglu told reporters on March 29.
“This agreement is a done deal,” he added.
He also said Ankara did not plan to sell the S-400 to other parties.
Cavusoglu said Turkey had been receiving contradictory statements from the United States, adding that Ankara had met all its obligations related to the F-35s.
Senators James Lankford (R-OK), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Thom Tillis (R-NC), and Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) introduced a bill to prohibit the transfer of F-35 Joint Strike Fighter aircraft to Turkey until our government certifies that Turkey will not accept delivery of Russia’s S-400 air defense system. Under the US-led, multinational Joint Strike Fighter program, Turkey was expected to accept delivery of the F-35 next fall.
“Turkey is an important NATO ally and willing partner in addressing a number of US national security priorities,” said Lankford. “It’s concerning that Turkey would seek close defense cooperation with Russia, whose authoritarian ruler seeks to undermine NATO and US interests at every turn. That’s why I am glad to partner with Senators Shaheen, Van Hollen, and Tillis to introduce this bipartisan bill that sends a clear message to the Turkish government that it cannot have sensitive, state-of-the-art American military technology and Russian military technology.”
“Make no mistake – the Kremlin is an adversary of the United States and many of our NATO allies. 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,” said Shaheen. “Turkey is a critical ally, but until President Erdogan forgoes his perplexing efforts to acquire the S-400 air defense system, not a single F-35 aircraft should be delivered to Turkey. This bill makes it clear that NATO’s integrity, interoperability, and security is a top foreign policy concern across all branches of the U.S. government. As such, this bipartisan bill will help ensure the safety and security of the United States and our transatlantic community.”
“Turkey is an important NATO partner and strategic ally, and I was greatly encouraged by Turkey’s release of Pastor Andrew Brunson last year,” said Senator Tillis. “However, I remain deeply concerned about their attempts to buy and install the S-400 air defense system from Russia, an adversary of NATO. I strongly urge Turkey to cease this deal immediately so we can deliver the F-35 as originally planned and continue to work towards advancing the common interests of our countries.”
“As a member of NATO, Turkey must not undermine the security of the United States and our allies. Operating the Russian S-400 missile defense system alongside the F-35 aircraft would do exactly that, and we cannot allow that to happen. This bipartisan legislation would draw a hard line in the sand and protect vital national security interests, and the Senate should consider it without delay,” said Senator Van Hollen, who has authored similar provisions on both the Defense and State and Foreign Operations Appropriations bills.
Last year, Lankford, Shaheen, and Tillis introduced a similar bill to stop the transfer of fighter aircraft to Turkey their government committed a number human rights violations, including the unjust imprisonment of an American pastor Andrew Brunson. Pastor Brunson was released in October 2018 after being detained for two years. A version of the bill was included as an amendment in the FY2019 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) directing the Secretary of Defense to submit a plan to Congress to remove Turkey from participation in the F-35 program.
THE CONGRESSMEN’S LETTER
Dear Chairwoman Nita Lowey and Ranking Member Harold Rogers:
As you begin work on the fiscal year 2020 State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs Appropriations Bill, we urge you to include language concerning the delivery of F-35 Lightning II jets to the Republic of Turkey.
Under President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey has acted in a manner inconsistent with its responsibilities as a NATO member and ally of the United States. Our foremost concern is Turkey’s planned purchase of the Russian S-400 surface-to-air missile system. The integration of the Russian S-400 system into NATO military defense systems would threaten exposure of closely guarded U.S. and NATO military secrets – including about the F-35, our most advanced stealth fighter jet. Despite warnings from the United States and NATO, Turkey has pressed ahead with its plans to purchase the Russian system.
Furthermore, Turkey continues to threaten U.S. interests and allies in the region, including U.S. forces in Syria, Kurdish YPG forces, Greece, Israel and Cyprus. Turkey has veered further towards autocracy under President Erdogan, arresting hundreds of thousands of citizens and relentlessly attacking the free press, civil service and independent judiciary. President Erdogan’s security forces even assaulted peaceful protestors in Washington, D.C. in May 2017. This assault was an affront to the core beliefs and freedoms that undergird our democracy. For these and other reasons, we have no confidence that Turkey will use F-35 jets responsibly.
Given the unacceptable risk posed by Turkey’s procurement of the S-400 system and Turkey’s provocative activities in the region, we respectfully request that you include the following language in the fiscal year 2020 State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs Appropriations Bill:
RESTRICTION ON FUNDS.-None of the funds appropriated or otherwise made available by this Act and prior Acts making appropriations for the Department of State, foreign operations, and related programs, may be made available to transfer or deliver, or to facilitate the transfer or delivery of, F-35 aircraft to Turkey, including any defense articles or services related to such aircraft, until the Secretary of State certifies to the appropriate congressional committees that the Government of Turkey is not purchasing the S-400 missile defense system from Russia and will not accept the delivery of such system.
Turkey continues to behave in an unacceptable manner for a NATO member and U.S. ally, threatening our interests in the region and the rule of law domestically. It’s growing ties to the Russian Federation and planned purchase of the S-400 system are a grave concern for the United States and require a meaningful response. We urge you to include the language above and thank you for your consideration of our request.