- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 10, 2019

National Security Adviser Robert C. O’Brien claimed Sunday that President Trump will personally pressure Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to drop his country’s purchase of Russian-made S-400 missiles when Mr. Erdogan visits the White House this week.

“There’s no place in NATO for the S-400. There’s no place in NATO for significant Russian military purchases,” Mr. O’Brien told CBS’ “Face the Nation.”

“That’s a message that the president will deliver to [Mr. Erdogan] when he’s here in Washington,” said Mr. O’Brien, who asserted that if Turkey “doesn’t get rid of the S-400, there will likely be sanctions.”

“Sanctions will pass congress with an overwhelming bipartisan majority and Turkey will feel the impact of those sanctions,” he said. “We’ve made that very clear to President Erdogan.”

The Trump administration has already frozen Turkey’s access to America’s next-generation F-35 fighter jet in response to the NATO ally’s decision in recent months to proceed with purchase of the sophisticated Russian-made missile defense system.

U.S. officials say Turkey’s acquisition of the S-400 risks aiding Russian intelligence in gathering sensitive information on the F-35’s radar capabilities — information proprietary to Washington and carefully shared with only select allies.

The S-400 matter is likely to be overshadowed, however, by a range of other contentious issues hanging over Mr. Erdogan’s planned visit to Washington slated for Wednesday.

The visit comes amid heated tension between Washington and Ankara over Turkey’s military incursion into northern Syria in the wake of Mr. Trump’s decision to pull U.S. forces from the region last month.

Critics claim Mr. Trump’s move green-lit an aggressive Turkish invasion aimed at crushing Kurdish forces who’ve been aligned with the U.S. fight against the Islamic State in Syria. Turkey views the Kurdish forces as terrorists tied to Kurdish separatists inside Turkey and there have been reports of atrocities against Syrian Kurds.

Mr. O’Brien said Sunday that the White House is “very concerned” about possible war crimes in northern Syria, but stopped short of blaming Turkey. The national security adviser also pushed back against the notion that the U.S. troop withdrawal was tantamount to inviting Turkish forces to invade.

“The idea that the U.S. somehow green-lighted Turkey’s military operation, that’s just simply false and the American people shouldn’t believe that,” Mr. O’Brien said, claiming that Mr. Trump explicitly called on Turkey not to go into Syria and that the administration engineered a cease-fire in the wake of the Turkish incursion.

• Guy Taylor can be reached at gtaylor@washingtontimes.com.

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