Dec 2, 2019

Bipartisan senators call for sanctions against Turkey before NATO summit

An S-400 surface-to-air missile launcher in Moscow, June 25. Photo: Sefa Karacan/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Sens. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) asked in a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo Monday to sanction Turkey for violating U.S. law by testing a Russian-made S-400 air defense system in Ankara this week.

Why it matters: The senators sent the letter a day before NATO leaders, including Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, convene for a summit in London on a myriad of pressing topics, including the risk posed by Turkey testing Russian missile systems.

Context: The U.S. removed Turkey from its F-35 stealth fighter jet program earlier this year after Turkey purchased a Russian S-400 system, which Washington fears could be used to gather intelligence on the F-35 and its weaknesses.

  • The Trump administration has held off implementing sanctions against Turkey for violating the 2017 Countering America’s Adversaries through Sanctions Act, which requires the U.S. to sanction countries trading with Russia's defense and intelligence sectors.
  • U.S. and NATO members have criticized Turkey, which has caused a number of headaches within the trans-Atlantic alliance as of late, for buying and testing the system.

What they're saying: “The time for patience has long expired," Van Hollen and Graham wrote in the letter to Pompeo. "It is time you applied the law. Failure to do so is sending a terrible signal to other countries that they can flout U.S. laws without consequence."

  • Pompeo said on July 14 that the 2017 law "requires that there be sanctions," according to TIME magazine. "And I’m confident that we will comply with the law, and President Trump will comply with the law."

The big picture: At the summit on Tuesday, leaders will have to address how to manage a country that has emerged as NATO's problem child, Axios' Jonathan Swan writes.

  • Ivo Daalder, who served as U.S. ambassador to NATO from 2009 to 2013, told Axios that "Turkey appears to have decided that its future is better assured by close alignment with Putin's Russia than with a US-led NATO."

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