Photo Credit: Turkish Defense Ministry handout
The S-400 air defense system is unloaded from a Russian transport aircraft in Ankara, Turkey, July 12, 2019.

Senate Majority Whip John Thune (R-S.D.) last week offered an amendment to the 2021 US defense bill allowing the US Army to purchase Turkey’s Russian-made S-400 air defense system, Defense News reported Tuesday (US could buy Turkey’s Russian-made S-400 under Senate proposal). The buyout will be made through the US Army’s missile procurement account.

In late 2017, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Russian officials signed a $2.5 billion agreement for delivery of the S-400 air defense system units. The US raised concerns over the deal, but Erdoğan rejected the US threat of sanctions, saying the S-400 deal with Russia was better than the Patriot system deal offered by the Americans. Turkey received its first S-400 missile defense system on July 12, 2019, and on July 17 the US expelled Turkey from the F-35 program, because the “F-35 cannot coexist with a Russian intelligence collection platform that will be used to learn about its advanced capabilities.” So far, Turkey has received four S-400 batteries consisting of 36 fire units, and 192 missiles.

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But another Republican, Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Jim Risch from Idaho, has introduced an opposite amendment demanding that the Trump administration implement Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) sanctions on Turkey within 30 days of passage of the National Defense Authorization Act.

So far, Congress has passed legislation mandating the president to use CAATSA sanctions against Iran, North Korea, and Russia.

The offer to buyout the Russian systems would give Erdoğan a path back to becoming an active member of NATO once again, at a time when the Turkish economy has been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic. Turkey’s official figures show about 200,000 cases of infection and more than 5,000 deaths.

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