The Turkish government has vowed reprisals if the U.S. Congress passes a defense policy bill that prevents the sale of Lockheed Martin-made F-35 fighter jets to Ankara.
The Senate Armed Services Committee on Thursday passed its version of the $716 billion National Defense Authorization Act with language that directs the Pentagon to submit a plan to Congress to remove the NATO ally from participation in the F-35 program.
“According to agreement, everybody has a mission and we expect everyone to fulfill these missions,” said Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesman Hami Aksoy, Ahval reports. “Such steps are breach of the spirit of our alliance with the U.S. As our minister stated, if such steps are taken, we will have no other choice but to respond accordingly.”
Turkish Foreign Affairs Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said earlier this month the country would retaliate, after the House version of the NDAA was unveiled. That bill contains a broader prohibition on any foreign military sales to Turkey until the Pentagon reports to Congress on the impact of U.S.-Turkey tensions.
The Senate approved its version of the massive bill after meeting behind closed doors this week, but the text of the bill itself is not expected for about another week. The panel was steered by its No. 2 Republican, Sen. Jim Inhofe, of Oklahoma, as its chairman, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., was battling brain cancer at home in Arizona.
The NDAA is several steps from becoming law. The House passed its version earlier Thursday, and the Senate must pass its version before the two are reconciled over the summer into a final bill for both chambers to pass. One provision in the SASC-passed NDAA says the Senate believes Turkey should be sanctioned if it completes the purchase of the S-400 long-range air and anti-missile defense system from Russia.
Turkey’s capacity to access the F-35, he said, “is still very much a live issue.” U.S. Ambassador to NATO Kay Bailey Hutchison called the purchase “very serious” at a public forum on Wednesday.
“They’re a very important partner,” she said of Turkey. “But no partner in NATO has ever purchased a Russian system that is not capable of being interoperable with our NATO systems.”