Turkey sees increasing anti-Turkey activity in U.S. Congress

Updated with report on another U.S. Congress bill submitted on Wednesday in 14th and 15th paragraph.

Turkey described a draft resolution adopted on Wednesday by a U.S. legislative committee as an example of the intensified activity of anti-Turkey circles in U.S. Congress.

The U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee adopted a resolution calling for Turkey’s expulsion from the U.S.’ F-35 fighter jet program should Ankara proceed with plans to buy the Russian S-400 missile system, Voice of America reported.

“We observe that the anti-Turkey circles in the United States have recently intensified their activities in the U.S. Congress. The Draft Resolution, titled ‘Expressing Concern for the United States-Turkey Alliance,’ which was approved on 22 May...is another example of this,” Turkish foreign ministry spokesman Hami Aksoy said in a statement.

Democratic House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer and Republican Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy led a bipartisan group in co-signing House Resolution 372, which calls on Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to avoid a military relationship with Russia that could jeopardise the U.S.-Turkish partnership and Turkey’s role in NATO. The resolution was originally prepared by House Foreign Affairs Committee Chair Eliot Engel and ranking member Michael McCaul.

Engel said in the committee meeting that Erdoğan undermined democracy in Turkey and strengthened his relations with Russian President Vladimir Putin. “This resolution condemns Erdoğan for his authoritarian behaviour. It calls for the cancellation of the delivery of Russian systems to Turkey,” he said. 

The reported $2.5 billion deal between Turkey and Russia, brokered in 2017, for the purchase of S-400 missile systems has soured the relations between Ankara and Washington, as Turkey’s NATO allies are concerned that the system could collect data on NATO military operations and undermine their defences. 

As the expected July delivery of the S-400 has neared, Washington has increased pressure on Ankara to cancel or postpone the deal. CNBC reported on Tuesday that Washington gave Turkey until the end of the first week in June to either cancel its acquisition of Russia’s S-400 missile system and buy U.S.-made Patriots or risk expulsion from the F-35 program, U.S. sanctions and possible blowback from NATO. Washington has offered Turkey a $3.5-billion sale of Patriot air defence batteries, if Ankara cancels the plans to acquire Russian-made systems. 

Republican MacCaul said on Wednesday that the resolution supported Washington plans to sell Turkey Patriot batteries. “The U.S. Congress will no more support Turkey’s participation to F-35 programme in case it purchases S-400 systems. We want to see Turkey changing its course and make better choices,” he said. 

Congressional Turkey Caucus Co-Chairs Steve Chabot and Joe Wilson also criticised Ankara’s decision to purchase the Russian S-400 missile system.

“Turkey’s impending purchase of the S-400 anti-aircraft system from Russia is very damaging for the U.S.-Turkey relationship,” Chabot said to committee members, adding that he wished Erdoğan would make the right decision. 

“Turkey is a strategic NATO ally and the decision to buy S-400s is indicative of the current government’s disdain for our shared values and Turkey’s democratic foundations.” Wilson said. “The fact that they [Turkey] are now considering collaborating with the Russians on a new S-500 system just confirms this to me and others,” he added, referring to Erdoğan saying last week that Ankara and Moscow would cooperate for the production of S-500s. 

Turkish Defence Minister Hulusi Akar said on Wednesday that Turkey’s military personnel were currently receiving training in Russia for the S-400 system, Anadolu Agency reported. 

"We’ve sent personnel to Russia for S-400 training that will begin in the coming days and will span the following months,”Akar said, adding that Turkey also had military personnel in the United States to receive training and for the planes.

Meanwhile, three U.S. congressmen on Wednesday introduced a new bipartisan bill that supports the growing partnership in the eastern Mediterranean between Israel, Greece, and Cyprus and calls for an end to the arms embargo on Cyprus, Greek daily Kathimerini reported.

 The U.S. House bill follows a bill introduced by Senators Marco Rubio and Robert Menendez in April to enhance security cooperation in the eastern Mediterranean. That bill included increased defence support for Turkey’s neighbours and halting the delivery of 100 U.S. F-35 fighter jets ordered by Turkey if it completes its purchase of Russia’s S-400 missile system.

© Ahval English