A bipartisan group of senators has introduced legislation that would block Turkey from buying the U.S.-made F-35 joint fighter aircraft if it goes ahead with plans to buy Russia’s S-400 air defense system.
The bill, co-sponsored by Democratic Sens. Jeanne Shaheen and Chris Van Hollen and Republican Sens. James Lankford and Thom Tillis, would prohibit the delivery of F-35 jets to Ankara until the Trump administration can confirm that Turkey is not purchasing the Russian defense system.
Turkey, a key NATO ally, intends to purchase 100 F-35s as early as the fall, but the transaction has come with stark warnings from both U.S. and European officials who have raised concerns that Russia could obtain significant information about the aircraft if they are used in conjunction with the Russian air defense system.
“Turkey is a critical ally, but until [Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan] forgoes his perplexing efforts to acquire the S-400 air defense system, not a single F-35 aircraft should be delivered to Turkey,” Mrs. Shaheen, New Hampshire Democrat, said in a statement.
The top U.S. general for NATO and military operations in Europe, Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti, told the Senate Armed Services Committee this month that it is his “best military advice” to reject the sale of the F-35 to Turkey if the Russia deal goes through, calling the fighter “one of our most advanced technological capabilities.”
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu insisted again Friday that Ankara is committed to purchasing Russia’s defense system, despite warnings from Washington.
“As a principle, it is contrary to international laws for a third country to oppose an agreement between two countries,” he said during a press conference with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. “We are committed to this agreement.”