The White House is opposed to Senate appropriators’ efforts to restrict the transfer of F-35 Joint Strrike Fighters to Turkey, according to the Insider.
In a July 9 letter to Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard Shelby, the White House’s Office of Management and Budget Director, Mick Mulvaney, argued that “Turkey is an important NATO ally and has been an international participant with the F-35 program since 2002.”
He added that “the administration shares the Congress’s concerns over recent Turkish actions but opposes language that preemptively restricts its ability to work with Turkey to address those concerns.”
The Senate committee has said that the transfer of the F-35s should not occur “until the Secretary of State certifies to the appropriate congressional committees that the government of Turkey is not purchasing the S-400 missile defense system from Russia and will not accept the delivery of such a system.”
Turkey has also angered Washington by incarcerating U.S. pastor Andrew Brunson on terrorism charges. Brunson has been in jail since October 2016 and his trial began on April 16th. He will appear in court again on July 18.
U.S. Senator Chris Van Hollen has announced an amendment to the Fiscal Year 2019 State, Foreign Operations Act calling a halt to the pending delivery of F-35 Joint Strike Fighters to Turkey.
U.S. officials have also been warning Turkey that its decision to purchase the Russian S-400s — it has already committed to delivery of the weapons — would result in consequences for the F-35 deal.
The National Defense Authorization Act, which will be discussed at the Senate and Representatives’ conference committee level this month, also proposes provisions that restrict F-35 transfers until Ankara changes its mind on purchasing the S-400s and releases Brunson.
The White House’s opposition to the sanctions is at least a temporary win for President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government and indicates that the Trump administration might also oppose the restrictions in the NDAA bill. However, a Washington based expert who follows the developments closely stated that this so-called opposition to restriction “is a pro forma letter and cannot be considered a serious opposition.”