A bipartisan pair of senators is pushing the Trump administration to sanction Turkey amid reports that it is testing a Russian-made missile defense system using U.S.-made jets.
For years, U.S. lawmakers have raised concerns about NATO ally Turkey’s purchase of the Russian-made S-400 air defense system and have urged sanctions that are required by U.S. law to be imposed on those that do business with Russia’s defense industry.
The latest push comes after reports Turkey activated radars to detect Greece’s U.S.-made F-16 fighter jets after an international military exercise and plans to conduct a comprehensive test of the missile defense system next week.
“We write concerning public reports that Turkey has activated the radars of its Russian-made S400 anti-aircraft system, in order to detect U.S.-made F-16 fighter jets returning from the Eunomia exercise conducted by France, Italy, Greece and Cyprus in late August in response to Turkey’s unwarranted aggression in the Eastern Mediterranean,” Sens. Chris Van Hollen(D-Md.) and James Lankford (R-Okla.) wrote in a letter Wednesday to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
“Given this information, we again urge you to impose sanctions on Turkey as required by law,” they added.
The pair also asked Pompeo whether Turkey did indeed activate the S-400s’ radars to detect the F-16s and whether the country has integrated the system into NATO’s tactical data link, asking whether that would “enable Russia to gather information on NATO allies.”
Turkey took delivery of the S-400 system last year despite warnings from U.S. officials that it was a threat to the U.S.-made F-35 fighter jet and would mean sanctions.
In response to the S-400 purchase, the Pentagon kicked Turkey out of the F-35 program.
But the Trump administration never imposed sanctions over the purchase, despite the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) requiring sanctions on those who do business with Russia’s defense sector.
In addition, despite officially kicking Ankara out of the F-35 program, the Pentagon has said Turkey will continue to make parts for the jet until 2022.
Bloomberg reported Tuesday that Turkey is planning next week to test the S-400 and the readiness of its personnel at a site in Sinop province on the Black Sea coast. That report followed one in a Greek newspaper about Turkey activating the S-400 radars to track the Greek F-16s after the Eunomia exercise.
The August incident would not be the first time Turkey used the S-400s to track F-16s. Last year, Turkey tested the radars by flying its own F-16s over Ankara.
“Reports of this activation make clear that Turkey has no intention of reversing course and divesting of this system,” Van Hollen and Lankford wrote. “Additionally, the slow pace at which the Department of Defense is moving to remove Turkey from the F-35 supply chain has no doubt emboldened [Turkish] President [Recep Tayyip] Erdogan.”