Menendez Asks Pompeo if Turkey’s Purchase of Russian Weapons Counts Toward NATO Obligations
WASHINGTON – Senator Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, sent a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo seeking the Trump Administration’s clarification whether Turkey’s purchase of the Russian S400 air defense system will be counted towards Turkey’s pledge to increase defense spending under its NATO obligations. After President Trump repeatedly pressured and publicly shamed NATO members to swiftly increase their defense spending to 2% of gross domestic product, Turkey may potentially cross that threshold after President Erdogan purchased a major Russian weapons system worth $2.5 billion.
“Countries whose spending violates the spirit of the NATO alliance and puts member states at significant physical risk should be punished; they should certainly not be rewarded,” wrote Menendez. “As I said on the Senate floor in November 2019, I remain deeply concerned that the administration has not imposed sanctions on Turkey for this sale.”
Turkey’s decision to purchase the S400 system resulted in its suspension from the F-35 fighter jet program, and violated the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act, requiring the U.S. to impose sanctions on Turkey—which the Trump Administration has refused to do.
“Not only are you violating the law by refusing to impose mandatory sanctions under CAATSA, you are sending a signal to other would-be purchasers of major Russian systems that the United States will not enforce its own laws when it comes to Russia-origin equipment,” concluded the Senator.
A copy of the Senator’s letter can be found HERE and below:
The Honorable Michael R. Pompeo
U.S. Department of State
2201 C Street, N.W.
Washington, DC 20520
Dear Secretary Pompeo:
I am writing to seek clarification from the State Department as to whether Turkey’s recent purchase of the Russian S400 Air defense system will be included in the calculation of Turkey’s progress towards its 2014 NATO Wales Summit Declaration commitments. It would be highly ironic – and hugely problematic – if this S400 purchase allows Turkey to finally meet its NATO spending pledges.
As you are aware, during the 2014 Wales Summit, NATO member states agreed that allies who currently spend less than 2% of their Gross Domestic Product (GDP) on defense will “aim to move towards the 2% guideline within a decade with a view to meeting their NATO Capability Targets and filling NATO's capability shortfalls.”
NATO will soon publish 2019 member state-reported defense spending figures and announce progress towards the 2% targets. In 2017, Turkey defense spending reached 1.52% of GDP and rose to 1.85% in 2018. With an annual defense budget of $14.145 billion, the estimated S400 price-tag of $2.5 billion has the potential to push Turkey over this 2% threshold.
Please provide the State Department’s assessment as to whether this purchase will count towards its overall defense spending figures. If the State Department does not hold this view, I would request that you urgently engage with NATO headquarters and NATO member states to ensure that this purchase is not included as an eligible expense.
Countries whose spending violates the spirit of the NATO alliance and puts member states at significant physical risk should be punished; they should certainly not be rewarded. As I said on the Senate floor in November 2019, I remain deeply concerned that the administration has not imposed sanctions on Turkey for this sale. Not only are you violating the law by refusing to impose mandatory sanctions under CAATSA, you are sending a signal to other would-be purchasers of major Russian systems that the United States will not enforce its own laws when it comes to Russia-origin equipment.
Moving forward, we hope that Turkey begins to chart a path towards a more constructive NATO partner that respects human rights and democracy. Until this time, though, Turkey must not get credit for such behavior.
 See NATO Wales Summit Declaration (Sept. 5, 2014) (online at https://www.nato.int/cps/en/natohq/official_texts_112964.htm).
 See Defense Expenditures of NATO Countries (2013-2019) (Nov. 29, 2019) (online at https://www.nato.int/nato_static_fl2014/assets/pdf/pdf_2019_11/20191129_pr-2019-123-en.pdf).
 See “A messy multibillion-dollar weapon sale between Turkey, Russia and the US just got more complicated,” CNBC, Amanda Macias (Dec. 19, 2018) (online at https://www.cnbc.com/2018/12/19/a-messy-multi-billion-dollar-weapon-sale-between-turkey-russia-and-the-us-just-got-more-complicated.html).
Juan Pachon (202) 224-4651
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