A Republican member of the U.S. Senate has proposed legislation that would make it possible for the United States to buy Turkey’s S-400 Russian-made defense system amid issues between Washington and Ankara over Turkey’s purchase of Russian gear.
Senate Majority Whip John Thune, R-S.D., has proposed an amendment to the 2021 National Defense Authorization Act that would allow the purchase to be made using the U.S. Army’s missile procurement account. The move comes a year after the U.S. expelled NATO ally Turkey from the multinational F-35 program because it received the S-400 in a $2.5 billion deal.
However, Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Jim Risch, R-Idaho, has introduced an amendment that would take a tougher stance, mandating the Trump administration implement CAATSA sanctions on Turkey within 30 days of passage of the NDAA. Risch has been critical of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and accused him of bad faith in dealings with the U.S. over the S-400.
Under CAATSA, or the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act, passed in 2017, any nation procuring a major defense article from Russia should face major sanctions.
U.S. President Donald Trump has held off imposing sanctions against Turkey for its purchase, but the sale remains a sticking point in the relationship. Erdogan has refused to give up the system, despite warnings from Washington that the S-400 could compromise the stealthy F-35.
The U.S. routinely buys foreign technology and could both exploit the S-400′s technology and test U.S. tactics, said Jim Townsend, a former Pentagon official for European and NATO policy. If Turkey doesn’t go for the idea, he said, the two countries are still stuck.
“I think the US buying the S-400s from Turkey is a clever way of getting Erdogan out of the jam he put himself in,” Townsend said. “We just want to get the system out of Turkey … and if it enables the Turks to take part in the F-35 then all the better.”
Turkey cannot re-export Russian-made S-400 defense systems without Moscow’s permission, Interfax news agency reported on June 30, citing a spokeswoman for Russia’s federal service for military-technical cooperation, Maria Vorobyova.
Leonid Slutsky, chairman of the Russian State Duma Committee on International Affairs, also commented on the issue on June 30, saying: “Republican Senator John Thune’s proposal to buy S-400s from Turkey, supposedly to resolve the conflict between Ankara and Washington, is unprincipled and cynical.”
“But I believe that such a thing will not be possible and this proposal will not be taken into consideration by Turkey,” Slutsky was quoted as saying by Sputnik.
Russia announced in September 2017 that it had signed a $2.5 billion deal with Turkey on the delivery of S-400 anti-aircraft missile systems to Ankara. Under the contract, Ankara received a regiment set of S-400 air defense missile systems (two battalions). The deal also envisages partial transfer of production technology to the Turkish side.
Turkey is the first NATO member state to purchase such air defense missile systems from Russia. The deliveries of S-400 launchers to Turkey began on July 12, 2019.
Turkey’s decision to acquire the Russian-made S-400 surface-to-air missile systems has caused a sharply negative reaction from the United States and NATO as a whole. The United States insists that Turkey must give up the Russian air defense systems.
As Turkey has said that it will not give up the S-400 systems, Washington has excluded Ankara from the US program of developing the fifth-generation F-35 fighter-bomber.
The United States is also threatening Turkey with unilateral sanctions over the purchase of S-400 air defense systems but is in no hurry to take these steps out of fear of further worsening relations with a major NATO ally while Ankara has warned it will not leave the imposition of these restrictions unanswered.
The S-400 ‘Triumf’ is the most advanced long-range air defense missile system that went into service in Russia in 2007. It is designed to destroy aircraft, cruise and ballistic missiles, including medium-range weapons, and can also be used against ground installations. The S-400 can engage targets at a distance of 400 km and at an altitude of up to 30 km.