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AHI Welcomes Congressional Action toward Turkey, which includes F-35s

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No. 32

WASHINGTON, DC — The American Hellenic Institute (AHI) welcomes congressional action underway in a response to Turkey’s behavior, which has not met the principles and standards of a NATO member nation. 

“As we have stated all along, Turkey does not share NATO’s core purpose or best interests,” AHI President Nick Larigakis said. “It is unbecoming of a NATO member to act in the aggressive and provocative manner as it has toward fellow Alliance-member countries. It is time to hold Turkey accountable, and we are encouraged Congress is taking measures to do so.”

The National Defense Authorization Act of 2019 (NDAA) is legislation Congress passes each year that sets policy and funding levels for the Department of Defense. This year, the legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate each contains provisions that aim at Turkey’s participation in the F-35 program.

“We thank Senators Thom Tillis and Jeanne Shaheen, who are members of the Senate Armed Services Committee, for their initiative and hard work to secure their amendment that targets Turkey’s participation in the F-35 program,” Larigakis said. “We also thank the House Armed Services Committee for drafting and advancing a bill with a strong provision that passed the U.S. House of Representatives.”

Analysis

House Bill

The U.S. House of Representatives passed its version of the NDAA on May 24, 2018. 

The House’s version contains a provision that requires the Secretary of Defense, in consultation with the Secretary of State, to submit a report on the status of the United States relationship with Turkey within 60 days of the bill’s enactment.  Included in this report is an assessment of the potential purchase of the S-400 missile system from Russia and its impact on U.S. weapon systems such as the F-35s and F-16s, among other weapons systems.

· All U.S. weapons sales to Turkey are suspended until the Secretary of Defense submits the required report to Congress.

Senate Bill

The Senate’s version of the NDAA advanced out of the Senate Armed Services Committee on May 24, 2018.  The Senate still must pass the bill. 

The Senate’s bill, in its current form, has two provisions specific to the transfer of F-35s to Turkey, according to a news report.

1.      A provision that “directs the Secretary of Defense to submit a plan to Congress to remove the Government of Turkey from participation in the F-35 program,” according to a statement issued by U.S. Senator Thom Tillis (R-NC), who co-sponsored the provision with U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH).  Senator Tillis’ statement adds, “The Tillis-Shaheen provision…is a direct response to the Turkish government’s wrongful imprisonment of Pastor Andrew Brunson, and Turkey’s troubling intention to purchase the S-400 system from Russia. The provision explicitly states that Congress finds that the Turkish government is unlawfully and wrongfully detaining Andrew Brunson and is denying him due process rights consistent with international norms.”

2.      A separate provision would also require the Pentagon to produce a report on Turkey’s place in the F-35 supply chain.

The senate’s bill also “expresses the sense of the Senate that if Turkey purchases the S-400 air defense system from Russia, the President should impose sanctions against Turkey under the Countering America’s Adversaries through Sanctions Act,” according to a Senate Armed Services Committee statement.

“Turkey’s aggression in the Aegean Sea, which results in almost daily violations of Greece’s sovereignty and recklessly places lives in harm’s way; and Turkey’s gunboat diplomacy in the exclusive economic zone of Cyprus, all must be included in this policy discussion,” Larigakis said. “Greece and Cyprus, along with Israel, provide peace and stability in the region.  Turkey is the instigator of instability and is not a reliable ally of the United States.”

Next Steps

The full Senate must act on the bill.  If it passes the Senate, it goes to Conference Committee, where differences with the House’s version will have to be reconciled.  Once reconciled, the bill goes back to each chamber for a vote.  If passed, it will go to President Donald Trump to sign the bill into law.