- The Washington Times - Monday, July 16, 2018

A top U.S. diplomat on Monday warned Turkey of the “serious downside” to its proposed deal to buy Russian-made anti-missile weapons, saying sanctions levied by Congress over the deal would only be the beginning if Ankara presses forward.

“We want to make sure the systems acquired by our allies remain supportive of our [other] allies,” said Acting Assistant Secretary of State for Political-Military Tina Kaidanow.

“We want them to understand the real, serious downsides of making this acquisition from the Russians,” she said during a briefing with reporters from the Farnborough air show in the United Kingdom.

The State Department has yet to take action against Turkey, a NATO ally, over its plan to field the Russian-made S-400 missile defense system. But congressional lawmakers are continuing to pursue efforts to thwart the deal, spearheading efforts to scuttle shipments of the multimillion dollar F-35 Joint Strike Fighter jet fighter deal to the country.

Legislative language blocking the F-35 deal was adopted in the Senate version of the Pentagon’s spending bill for the coming fiscal year, while House lawmakers declined including the language in their version of the defense budget package.

Opponents of the S-400 inside and outside the Pentagon deal say Ankara’s decision to field the Russian-made anti-aircraft missile system will draw Turkey deeper into Moscow’s growing sphere of influence in the Middle East.

“It’s not just about sanctions,” Ms. Kaidanow said. “We are concerned that purchasing these systems from the Russians will be supportive of their actions” in the Middle East, eastern Europe and other potential flashpoints around the world.

The move would also reduce military interoperability between Turkey, a NATO ally, and its partners in the Cold war-era alliance and provide Moscow with significant insight into F-35 operations — which remains one of Washington’s closely guarded military secrets.

Earlier this month, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu pushed back against congressional concern over the S-400 sale, noting Ankara only proceeded with the Russian arms deal after NATO members declined to sell the air defense systems fielded by alliance members to Turkey.

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