Turkey’s procurement of the Russian S-400 air defense system violates recently adopted U.S. sanctions against Russia, and could trigger automatic sanctions against Ankara, Senator Ben Cardin said on Friday.
Mr. Cardin, a top Democratic lawmaker on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, sent a letter to the Trump administration, warning that Turkey’s purchase of the missile defense system breaches congressional sanctions which were signed into law last month over the objection of President Donald J. Trump.
“The legislation imposes sanctions on any person that conducts a significant transaction with the Russian Federation’s defense or intelligence sectors,” Mr. Cardin said in the letter, according to Politico.
He sent the letter to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin.
Mr. Cardin also asked the Trump administration to assess how Turkish purchase might affect Turkey’s NATO membership and U.S. security assistance to Ankara.
The U.S. Department of Defense said in a statement that it has relayed U.S. concerns about the deal to Turkish authorities.
“A NATO interoperable missile defense system remains the best option to defend Turkey from the full range of threats in the region,” Pentagon spokesman Johnny Michael said.
Turkey’s insistence on procuring the system has also opened cracks within its relations with NATO.
A NATO official told The Globe Post the alliance has not been informed about the details of any purchase.
The official added, however, that it is up to allies to decide what military equipment they buy.
“What matters for NATO is that the equipment for NATO is that the equipment Allies acquire is able to operate together. Interoperability of our armed forces is fundamental to NATO for the conduct of our operations and missions,” the official said.
The NATO official noted that any assessment of possible integration of systems purchased by allies into NATO networks includes technical and security considerations.
“This assessment is only conducted if and when an Ally requests such systems be integrated,” the official said. “We have not received such a request.”
A press official from the U.S. State Department reiterated to The Globe Post a statement made by spokeswoman Heather Nauert who called the deal inconsistent with a 2016 agreement to exclude Russian weapons system among NATO members. In addition, the deal does not meet NATO standards, which require interoperable systems among allies.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, however, dismissed Western concerns. NATO “went crazy because we made the S-400 deal,” the president said in Ankara on Thursday.
He said Turkey will take its own steps on the security front to reduce its dependence on Western networks.
In July, Turkey and Russia agreed on the terms of the deal, but it was never signed until Tuesday due to disagreements over financial aspects.
Russia’s Federal Service for Military-Technical Cooperation also confirmed the deal. “It is important to underscore that the delivery of this weapons system to Turkey is in Russia’s geopolitical interests,” the agency said in a statement quoted by Interfax news agency.
Turkey’s robust attempts to bolster its air defense systems in the region have a long history. Ankara has previously scrapped its agreement with China.