Three U.S. Senators Move to Block F-35 Transfers to Turkey (excerpt)
(Source: Reuters; published April 26, 2018)
WASHINGTON --- Three U.S. senators introduced a measure on Thursday aimed at blocking the transfer of Lockheed Martin’s F-35 Joint Strike Fighter to Turkey, a NATO ally and one of nine partner nations involved in producing the high-tech, radar-evading aircraft.
The bill, by Republicans James Lankford and Thom Tillis, and Democrat Jeanne Shaheen, comes at a time of deteriorating relations between the United States and Turkey, which supported the fight against Islamic State but has become increasingly worried about U.S. backing for Kurdish fighters in north Syria.
The three senators, in introducing the bill, issued a statement expressing concern that Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan had embarked on a “path of reckless governance and disregard for the rule of law.” (end of excerpt)
Click here for the full story, on the Reuters website.
(EDITOR’S NOTE: In recent months, Armenian and Greek lobbying groups in the United States had called for F-35 sales to Turkey to be banned for political or historical reasons, while US government officials cautioned that a similar course could be taken if Turkey persisted in completing the purchase of Turkish-supplied S-400 air-defense systems.
However, that this action could now be taken by three senators on the grounds that a U.S. preacher had been jailed in Turkey has taken many observers by surprise.
While is it too early to judge if this measure will be implemented, It should be noted that any restriction on F-35 deliveries with Turkey – a NATO ally and a founding partner of the F-35 program -- would also have major repercussions on F-35 operations in Europe, as Turkey is the designated F-35 engine support and overhaul location in Europe.
The three Senators’ joint statement is reproduced below.)
Senators Lankford, Shaheen, and Tillis Introduce Bill to Stop Transfer of Fighter Aircraft to Turkey
(Source: Senator James Lankford; issued April 26, 2018)
WASHINGTON, DC --- Senators James Lankford (R-OK), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), and Thom Tillis (R-NC) today introduced a bill to prevent the transfer of F-35 Joint Strike Fighter aircraft to Turkey. The bill would also block Turkey’s role as a maintenance depot for the aircraft. Under the US-led, multinational Joint Strike Fighter program, Turkey was expected to purchase more than 100 aircraft.
“Senators Shaheen and Tillis have worked diligently with me and others in Congress to address America’s rapidly deteriorating relationship with Turkey,” said Lankford. “I applaud our State Department for their ceaseless work to improve the US-Turkey relationship, but President Erdogan has continued down a path of reckless governance and disregard for the rule of law. Individual freedoms have been increasingly diminished as Erdogan consolidates power for himself, and Turkey’s strategic decisions regrettably fall more and more out of line with, and at times in contrast to, US interests.
“These factors make the transfer of sensitive F-35 technology and cutting-edge capabilities to Erdogan’s regime increasingly risky. Furthermore, the Turkish government continues to move closer and closer to Russia, as they hold an innocent American pastor, Andrew Brunson, in prison to use him as a pawn in political negotiations. The United States does not reward hostage-taking of American citizens; such action instead will be met with the kind of punitive measures this bill would enact.”
“Given my steadfast commitment to NATO and the transatlantic alliance, it is with regret that our relationship with Turkey has reached a point where we must consider severing defense and business ties in order to free American hostages held in Turkey,” said Shaheen. “Turkish President Erdogan’s choice to take hostages and imprison innocent Americans, to try to gain leverage over the United States, is egregious and unlawful.
Erdogan and his government must abide by the rule of law within his own country and abroad, and release Pastor Andrew Brunson and other Americans unlawfully held in Turkey. There must also be an immediate end to the harassment and detainment of locally-employed staff at the U.S. mission. Until that occurs, I’ll continue to join with Senators Lankford and Tillis to call for punitive action, including blocking the transfer of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.”
“America is not going to forget about Andrew Brunson and the other Americans who are being wrongfully imprisoned by the Turkish government,” said Tillis. “Turkey has long been a vital NATO ally and America understands the unique national security threats it faces; however, denying the rights of law-abiding Americans undermines the relationship between our two countries. The Erdogan government should understand that Congress will pursue measures to protect the interests of American citizens, including stopping the transfer of F-35 aircraft to Turkey.”
On April 19, Lankford and Shaheen announced their decision to pursue targeted sanctions against Turkish officials in this year’s Fiscal Year 2019 State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs spending bill.
On April 20, Tillis and Shaheen led a 66-Member letter to the President of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, demanding the release of Andrew Brunson.