The U.S. Senate has approved a major defense bill that would block the sale of U.S. F-35 fighter jets to Turkey unless it abandons a deal to buy S-400 missile-defense systems from Russia.
There have been bipartisan efforts in both the Senate and the House of Representatives, to potentially stop the transfer to Turkey. The legislation, passed 85-to-10 late on June 18, also contains a provision to block President Donald Trump’s deal with China to allow the telecommunications giant ZTE to stay in business despite violations of U.S. sanctions against Iran and North Korea.
The two provisions targeting Turkey and ZTE are part of the massive National Defense Authorization Act, which authorizes over $700 billion in defense spending on military programs and weapons.
The House of Representatives has passed its own version of the bill, and the two measures must now be reconciled before a compromise measure can be passed and sent to Trump for his signature or veto.
Turkey is currently one of the partner countries in the F-35 program and had plans to buy about 100 of the stealth jets, which are manufactured by Lockheed Martin Corp.
The Senate bill would prevent delivery of the jets unless Trump certifies that Turkey is not threatening NATO, purchasing defense equipment from Russia, or detaining U.S. citizens.
Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said on June 19 that the Senate’s passage of the bill was unfortunate and went against the spirit of strategic partnership. He said that Turkey has alternatives and that the bill would not make the country vulnerable.
NATO officials have repeatedly warned Turkey that the Russian S-400 systems it agreed to buy in 2016 are not compatible with NATO defenses, but Turkey has largely dismissed those concerns and proceeded with the Russian deal.