WASHINGTON — A bipartisan group of senior U.S. lawmakers has called on Turkey to cancel its planned purchase of Russia’s S-400 missile-defense system, which Western powers say is incompatible with NATO systems and poses a threat to U.S.-made warplanes.
Eliot Engel, the Democratic chairman of the House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee, and ranking Republican member Michael McCaul said in a statement on May 15 that Congress is “troubled by the direction that President [Recep Tayyip] Erdogan is taking our important NATO ally.”
“Cozying up to Vladimir Putin is unacceptable. The U.S. Congress will not stand idly by if Erdogan pursues the Russian S-400 air and missile-defense system. This legislation sends a clear message to Erdogan — if you continue down this path, you’ll face serious consequences,” McCaul said.
Democrat Jerrold Nadler, chair of the House Judiciary Committee, said that “Turkey cannot persist on this dangerous path toward aligning with Vladimir Putin and suppressing the rights of its own people.”
The United States has demanded that Ankara call off the deal to purchase the Russian missile system, and NATO allies have also expressed concerns about the potential threat to U.S.-made F-35 fighter jets.
In early May, the U.S. defense chief warned that Turkey’s participation in F-35 production work would be one of the consequences of Ankara’s actions.
Turkey, as a NATO member, is participating in the production of the fighter jet for use by alliance militaries and has plans itself to purchase 100 of the jets.
Several Turkish manufacturers are making parts and equipment for the F-35.
“The message to Turkey is clear: There is broad, bipartisan consensus that if Turkey goes forward and acquires S-400s, it should not get F-35s,” said Kevin McCarthy, the Republican House minority leader.
“There are simply too many grave consequences to the national security interests of the United States.”
The resolution, which is nonbinding, calls on the U.S. government to invoke the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act and impose financial penalties should Turkey go ahead with the buy.
The House Appropriations panel on May 13 introduced a spending bill that would block the U.S. government from spending money to “transfer or deliver, or to facilitate the transfer or deliver” the F-35 warplanes if Ankara proceeds.
Erdogan has repeatedly said his country will not withdraw from the S-400 deal which, according to Russian media, involved four S-400 units for a price of $2.5 billion.
Turkey has said it could take delivery of the missile system as early as this summer.
Despite their criticism, the U.S. lawmakers also called Turkey a “long-standing ally” and said they were “sending a message of strong support for the U.S.-Turkish alliance within the framework of NATO.”