The US Senate is to vote on legislation that would allow for the purchase of a Russian S-400 missile defense system from Turkey.
Senate Majority Whip John Thune, R-S.D., has proposed an amendment to the 2021 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that would allow the purchase to be made using the U.S. Army’s missile procurement account.
This is an attempt to rectify the situation created by Ankara purchasing a S-400 missile defense system from Moscow, and subsequently being booted out of the F-35 joint strike fighter program as a form of punishment, among other things.
In an act that is entirely counter to this one, Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Jim Risch 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 the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA), which was introduced in 2017, any country concluding major defense contracts with Russia must be heavily sanctioned.
According to Jim Townsend, a former Pentagon official for European and NATO policy, the US has a very common policy of buying foreign technology, and could potentially exploit the S-400’s technology, and also use it to tests its own tactics and aircraft against it.
“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.”
Currently, it is unclear which amendment the US Senate would vote, and even if either pass, they also need to pass the US House of Representatives and not be vetoed by the US President.
Trump has chosen not to sanction Turkey regarding the S-400 purchase.
The Senate Armed Services Committee’s draft of the authorization bill already contains language pertaining to Turkey and the F-35 program.
Turkey’s canceled receipt of 6 F-35A conventional-takeoff-and-landing models that were already built were instead provided to the US air force to accept, operate and modify.
The US has offered several benefits if Turkey drops the S-400, but so far, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declined everything.
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