Trump administration opposes Turkey sanctions bill
January 3, 2020
(JNS)—The Trump administration is reportedly opposing a bill that would sanction Turkey for purchasing Russian missiles, claiming that it would push both countries towards further cooperation.
The administration also opposes a part of the measure that would assist Syrian Kurdish refugees to resettle in the United States.
The Daily Beast first reported the developments on Monday, citing a seven-page memo sent by the U.S. State Department to senators.
The bill, the “Promoting American National Security and Preventing the Resurgence of ISIS Act,” passed out of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Dec. 12 and would sanction Turkey for purchasing Russian surface-to-air missiles and would prohibit the United States from selling Turkey F-16 or F-35 fighter jets, including parts, until Ankara has completely ditched the S-400 missile-defense system it acquired from Russia—a move that caused the United States earlier this year to drop Turkey from the F-35 program.
In the memo, the administration claimed that the bill would “effectively terminate U.S.-Turkey defense trade,” causing Turkey to rely on Russia and “other adversary arms providers.”
The White House also warned that it would “treat Turkey as a pariah in NATO, feeding a narrative that the Russian Federation would likely seek to amplify and exploit.”
A U.S. State Department spokesperson told The Daily Beast that while the United States is alarmed with Turkey’s acquisition of the S-400, it is important for Turkey to be part of NATO.
“NATO is stronger with Turkey as a member, and has been for nearly 70 years,” said the spokesperson. “Turkey has been a significant contributor to NATO collective security for decades. One of Russia’s key strategic goals is to drive a wedge between NATO members; we are working to maintain strong cooperation within the Alliance.”
“We remain deeply concerned with Turkey’s acquisition of the Russian S-400 missile system, and stress the S-400 and F-35 cannot coexist,” continued the spokesperson. “We will continue to urge Turkey to ensure its defense investments adhere to the commitment all allies made to pursue NATO interoperability.”
The bill also includes sanctions against Turkish national bank Halkbank, which was indicted in October by the United States for allegedly evading U.S. sanctions on Iran. While the Trump administration already has the authority to sanction the bank, it has yet to do so.
“[T]he sanctions on Halkbank are unnecessary because the Department of Treasury already possesses the authority to designate Halkbank, if appropriate,” said the memo. “Purporting to require the President to impose sanctions on Halkbank, constrains the President’s authority to conduct foreign relations.”
Diliman Abdulkader, co-founder of the newly established Washington, D.C.-based advocacy organization American Friends of Kurdistan, told JNS that the Trump administration is sending the wrong signal to U.S. allies.
“If the United States continues to allow Turkey to get away with violations, then we lose our credibility among other allies,” he said. “Turkey cannot be allowed to act aggressively towards our Kurdish allies while being given the green light to purchase Russian missiles that are incompatible with NATO defense systems.”
“Our policy towards Turkey must match Turkey’s behavior,” he continued. “Turkey has chosen a policy of blackmailing, through refugees, diplomacy, and now through defense purchases. Turkey is not too big to fail, the Trump administration must adjust its policy to secure American interests.”
Abdulkader added, “Syrian Kurds sacrificed over 11,000 lives fighting Daesh. It would be an American investment to allow those who are refugees to resettle in the United States; this would be in the interest of the administration. Turkey should not have any say in American policy towards any Kurds, anywhere.”