US lawmakers urge Trump to sanction Turkey, treat it as adversary

Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (L) shake hands during their bilateral meeting on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Osaka, Japan 29 June 2019. [Kremlin pool/EPA/EFE]

Republican and Democratic US lawmakers pressed President Donald Trump on Thursday (18 July) to impose sanctions on Turkey over its purchase of a Russian missile defense system, saying he should follow a law mandating penalties for doing business with Russia’s military.

Republican Senators Rick Scott and Todd Young introduced a resolution calling for sanctions after Ankara began accepting delivery of an advanced Russian missile defense system last week, prompting the White House to announce it was removing Turkey from the F-35 fighter jet program.

US removing Turkey from F-35 program after its Russian missile defense purchase

The United States said on Wednesday (17 July) that it was removing Turkey from the F-35 fighter jet program, a move long threatened and expected after Ankara began accepting delivery of an advanced Russian missile defense system last week.

Separately, Senator Bob Menendez, the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said removing Turkey from the jet program was not enough. “The law clearly mandates sanctions penalties for ‘significant transactions’ with the Russian Federation’s defense and intelligence sectors, which would clearly include the delivery of an S-400 system,” he said in an emailed statement.

But Trump’s administration has stopped short of imposing sanctions on Turkey, despite the sweeping 2017 sanctions law, known as CAATSA (Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act).

Trump has not been clear on whether his administration is considering doing so.

If approved, the resolution from Scott and Young would call for “full implementation of sanctions under CAATSA,” describing Turkey’s purchase of the S-400 air and missile defense system as a “direct and dire threat” to US security interests.

CAATSA mandates that the president choose five among a range of 12 sanctions, from banning visas and denying access to the US-based Export-Import Bank to harsher options such as barring transactions with the US financial system and denying export licenses.

However, CAATSA does not set any timeline for imposing sanctions or issuing a waiver, so Trump could delay indefinitely.

The resolution calls for the administration to convene talks at NATO to discuss threats posed by Russia and mull Turkey’s continued inclusion in NATO.

While the non-binding resolution would have no force of law, passage of such a measure in the Republican-controlled Senate could amp up pressure on Trump to crack down on Ankara.

Menendez said he would introduce legislation that would force the administration to sanction Turkey if Trump refuses to do so under CAATS.

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