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Bipartisan Leadership of Senate Foreign Relations and Armed Services Condemn Turkey S-400 Acquisition

Washington, DC – In response to news that Turkey began receiving the first shipment of the Russian S-400 surface-to-air-missile system, U.S. Sens. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) and Jack Reed (D-R.I.), chairman and ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, and Jim Risch (R-Idaho) and Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), chairman and ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, today released the following statement:

“By accepting delivery of the S-400 from Russia, President Erdogan has chosen a perilous partnership with Putin at the expense of Turkey’s security, economic prosperity and the integrity of the NATO alliance.

“On a strong bipartisan basis, Congress has made it clear that there must be consequences for President Erdogan’s misguided S-400 acquisition, a troubling signal of strategic alignment with Putin’s Russia and a threat to the F-35 program. As a result, we urge President Trump to fully implement sanctions as required by law under the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act. Additionally, while all F-35 material deliveries remain indefinitely suspended, we call on the Department of Defense to proceed with the termination of Turkey’s participation in the F-35 program.

“It did not have to come to this. But unfortunately, President Erdogan rejected multiple attempts by the United States to preserve our strategic relationship while enabling Turkey to defend its airspace with F-35 aircraft and the Patriot air defense system. 

“Turkey is an important NATO ally, and we hope that the strategic relationship between the United States and Turkey will overcome this setback. But lasting improvement to our cooperation will not be possible as long as President Erdogan remains fixated on deepening ties with Vladimir Putin at the expense of the economic prosperity of Turkey and the security of the NATO alliance.”

In addition to the joint statement, Risch said:

“The Turks continue to use the argument that they had to buy Russia’s S-400 because the U.S. would not sell them Patriot missiles. This is not true. I hand-delivered a letter which specifically offered the sale of Patriot missiles to Turkey when I was in Ankara in 2012. The letter was handed directly to Foreign Minister Davutoglu and the Turks had many opportunities to purchase our Patriot missiles over many years.”

Text of Senator Risch’s 2012 letter to the Turkish government regarding the sale of the Patriot missile defense system can be viewed below:

“Dear Prime Minister Erdogan,

“We write to thank you and your government for your generous hospitality during our Senate Congressional Delegation visit to Ankara, particularly in accommodating so many of our meeting requests. While we regret that we will not have the opportunity to meet in person, we hope to see you the next time you are in Washington.

“We would also like to express our strong bipartisan support for Raytheon’s Patriot missile defense system. We understand that the U.S. system is one of several finalists to supply your government’s long-range air and missile defense needs. We believe collaboration in this area presents a unique opportunity to strengthen relations between our two nations.

“The Patriot remains one of the world’s most advanced, and only proven, air and missile defense system. Currently fielded by twelve nations, its combat performance record is well documented. The Patriot is also fully interoperable with NATO’s missile defense network, a benefit not shared by several of its competitors.

“Selection of the Patriot system would also yield important economic benefits for Turkey and the United States. Expanded production of Patriot components would solidify Turkey’s role as a key defense supplier in the region while supporting reliable employment for Turkish and American workers. It would also facilitate relationships between Turkish and U.S. counterparts that could serve as the foundation for future economic opportunities.

“We appreciate your consideration and look forward to working with you in the month and years ahead on many areas of mutual interests we share.”

Background: On April 9, 2019, Senators Inhofe, Reed, Risch and Menendez co-authored an op-ed in the New York Times entitled, “A U.S. Fighter Jet or a Russian Missile System. Not Both.” On June 27, 2019, the Senate approved the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2020 with an 86-8 vote. The legislation contained a provision prohibiting the transfer of F-35 aircraft to Turkey should it accept delivery of the S-400. A floor amendment to the bill was also adopted, which called on the President to fully implement sanctions against Turkey should it accept delivery of the S-400.