U.S. Senators Blast NATO Ally Turkey After Russia Delivers S-400 Air Defense System

Bipartisan statement urges Trump to implement sanctions against Turkey, saying Erdogan has 'chosen a perilous partnership with Putin at the expense of Turkey’s security'

A Russian military cargo plane carrying S-400 missile defence system from Russia to the Murted military airbase in Ankara, July 12, 2019
AFP

U.S. senators issued a bipartisan statement against Turkey after it said the first shipment of the S-400 Russian missile defense system had arrived on Friday, urging President Donald Trump to sanction Ankara for the move.

The S-400 consignment was delivered to the Murted Air Base outside the capital Ankara, the Turkish ministry said, in a statement which triggered a weakening in the Turkish lira to 5.7 against the dollar from 5.6775 on Wednesday. 

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"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," senators Jim Inhofe, Jack Reed, Jim Risch and Bob Menendez wrote in the statement. 

The four are members of the Senate Armed Services Committee and Foreign Relations Committee.

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"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," the Senators said.

"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," they added. 

The delivery of parts belonging to the system will continue in the coming days, Turkey's Defense Industry Directorate said on Friday. "Once the system is completely ready, it will begin to be used in a way determined by the relevant authorities." 

The United States has warned Turkey it will face economic sanctions if it goes ahead with the purchase of a Russian missile defense system. It has also said Turkey won't be allowed to participate in the program to produce the high-tech F-35 fighter jets, a move invoked by the senators in the statement.

Erdogan said after meeting President Donald Trump at a G20 summit last month that the United States did not plan to impose sanctions on Ankara for buying the S-400s. Trump said Turkey had not been treated fairly but did not rule out sanctions.

Washington has already started the process of removing Turkey from the F-35 program, halting training of Turkish pilots in the United States on the aircraft. 

The United States says the S-400s are not compatible with NATO's defense network and could compromise its Lockheed Martin F-35 stealth fighter jets, an aircraft Turkey is helping to build and planning to buy.
Turkey has refused to bow to U.S. pressure, insisting that choosing which equipment to purchase is a matter of national sovereignty.