Two U.S. senators called on the Trump administration to impose sanctions on Turkey after reports emerged that it tested a Russian missile defence system on U.S.-made jets belonging to NATO ally Greece.
The S-400 system was allegedly activated as the aircraft returned from joint military exercises between Greece, France, Italy and Cyprus in late August, held in response to Turkish aggression in the eastern Mediterranean, news website the Hill reported on Wednesday.
U.S. lawmakers have been calling on the White House to levy sanctions on Turkey since it agreed to buy the S-400s from Moscow in 2017. It took delivery of the weapons last year. The senators also filed the request after reports this week that Turkey planned to test the system’s radars next week.
“Given this information, we again urge you to impose sanctions on Turkey as required by law,” Sens. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) and James Lankford (R-Okla.) wrote in a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, according to the Hill.
The senators asked Pompeo to confirm whether Turkey indeed activated the S-400s’ radars to detect the Greek jets and whether Ankara has integrated the system into NATO’s tactical data link, asking if that would “enable Russia to gather information on NATO allies”.
The United States has already thrown Turkey out of a programme to purchase F-35 stealth fighter in response to the Russian purchase. But the Trump administration has failed to impose further sanctions even though they are required under the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) for doing business with Russia’s defence industry.
The Greek Kathimerini newspaper reported on Monday that Turkey activated the S-400’s radars to track the jets. Bloomberg said on Tuesday that Turkey was planning to test the system next week, citing an unidentified official with knowledge of the matter. Video footage on social media showed trucks transporting the weapons.
“Reports of this activation make clear that Turkey has no intention of reversing course and divesting of this system,” Van Hollen and Lankford said. “Additionally, the slow pace at which the Department of Defense is moving to remove Turkey from the F-35 supply chain has no doubt emboldened (Turkish) President (Recep Tayyip) Erdoğan.”
Turkish firms continue to produce parts for the F-35s.