WASHINGTON — On March 28, Senators James Lankford (R-OK), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Thom Tillis (R-NC), and Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) introduced S.922, a bipartisan bill also known as the “Protecting NATO Skies Act of 2019” which prohibits the transfer of F-35 Joint Strike Fighter aircraft to Turkey until the United States certifies that Turkey will not accept delivery of Russia’s S-400 air defense system, reported the Armenian Assembly of America.
“It’s concerning that Turkey would seek close defense cooperation with Russia, whose authoritarian ruler seeks to undermine NATO and US interests at every turn. That’s why I am glad to partner with Senators Shaheen, Van Hollen, and Tillis to introduce this bipartisan bill that sends a clear message to the Turkish government that it cannot have sensitive, state-of-the-art American military technology and Russian military technology,” said Senator Lankford.
“Make no mistake — the Kremlin is an adversary of the United States and many of our NATO allies. The prospect of Russia having access to US aircraft and technology in a NATO country, Turkey, is a serious national and global security risk,” Shaheen stated. “This bipartisan bill will help ensure the safety and security of the United States and our transatlantic community.”
“As a member of NATO, Turkey must not undermine the security of the United States and our allies. Operating the Russian S-400 missile defense system alongside the F-35 aircraft would do exactly that, and we cannot allow that to happen. This bipartisan legislation would draw a hard line in the sand and protect vital national security interests, and the Senate should consider it without delay,” Van Hollen said.
Last year, Senators Shaheen, Lankford, and Tillis introduced S.2781, a similar bill to restrict the transfer of fighter aircraft to Turkey. A version of the bill was included as an amendment in the Fiscal Year (FY) 2019 National Defense Authorization Act directing the Secretary of Defense to submit a plan to Congress to remove Turkey from participation in the F-35 program. Spearheaded by Van Hollen and with the support of State and Foreign Operations Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Lindsey Graham (R-SC), the Committee adopted this amendment which would expressly prohibit spending funds from FY 2019 — as well as prior fiscal years — to transfer, or facilitate the transfer, of F-35 Joint Strike Fighters to Turkey until the Secretary of State certifies that Turkey is not purchasing and will not accept deliveries of the Russian S-400 missile defense system.
“The Armenian Assembly welcomes this latest initiative. Turkey has proven time and time again that its actions and policies could not be further from US interests than any presumed ally. Turkey’s surreptitious attempts to influence American politics have been increasingly exposed in the past year, and this bill sends a strong message that Turkey’s actions do have consequences,” stated Assembly Co-Chairs Anthony Barsamian and Van Krikorian.