A group of nineteen U.S. lawmakers expressed strong concern about the possible acquisition of a second batch of Russian S-400 missile defense systems by Turkey in a letter to U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken.
The group, led by U.S. Congressman Chris Pappas, also highlighted the “risks” if these are acquired alongside modernization kits for F-16 fighter aircraft.
Pappas also played a leading role in the amendment submitted to the NDAA for the F-16s.
In the letter released on Thursday, the lawmakers talk of a “flagrant violation” of U.S. law by Turkey as well as of the expectations of a NATO ally and request a briefing on the status of the negotiations with Turkey on F-16s and the steps the White House is taking to ensure the US-Turkish defense relationship complies with CAATSA and other concerns of Congress.
The initiative was welcomed by the executive director of the Hellenic-American Leadership Council, Endy Zemenides, who coordinates the actions of the “No Jets for Turkey” coalition, which includes Jewish, Armenian, Kurdish, and Christian organizations.
Zemenides noted that Congress was again playing a leading role in US defense relations with Turkey while noting that the Biden administration, while it had not so far proceeded with the modernization and sale of F-16s, was also not sending the right signals to Turkey and was instead allowing Ankara to remain with the impression that the U.S. will back down on the issue of the S-400 missiles.
The full letter follows below:
We are writing to express our concern about reports that Turkey is considering further acquisitions of the Russian S-400 missile defense system. Twenty months since the imposition of sanctions on Turkey pursuant to the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA), the Erdogan government has not only failed to come into compliance with CAATSA but has now made it clear that it intends to commit another flagrant violation of the law.
As noted in a letter we sent to you on November 1, 2021, “ one of the reasons Congress insisted on Turkey’s ejection from the F-35 program was because of the significant risks associated with collocating S-400s and F-35s. Experts have noted that providing Turkey the Block 70 modernization kits poses similar collocation risks if Ankara continues to possess Russian S-400s.”
Additional S-400s would only further increase the collocation risks. We found those risks unacceptable in November, and we find them even more unacceptable today.
As Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine continues, we cannot have a North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) member commit to military cooperation with the regime of Vladimir Putin. This undermines U.S. policy in Ukraine, regional peace and stability, and the very NATO alliance unity considerations the State Department has cited to Congress as the reason for considering F-16 upgrades and sales for Turkey.
During his confirmation hearing, U.S. Ambassador to Turkey Jeff Flake declared that Turkey should face additional CAATSA sanctions if it acquires additional Russian weapon systems. This is no longer a hypothetical question and Turkey’s continued violation of not only U.S. law, but of the expectations of a NATO ally must be addressed immediately.
Under the present circumstances, we must restate our objection to the sale of F-16 modernization kits and/or new F-16s to Turkey. We request a briefing within the next 30 days including an update on the status of negotiations with Turkey on F-16s, how collocation concerns – especially in light of additional S-400s entering the theater of concern – are being resolved, and what steps the Administration is taking to ensure the U.S.-Turkish defense relationship complies with CAATSA and others concerns of Congress. Thank you for your attention to this urgent matter, and we look forward to your response.
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