Trump Admin. Opposes Bill To Punish Turkey For Buying Russian Missiles
The Trump administration is fighting a bill that would punish Turkey for its deal with Russia to purchase surface-to-air missiles, sending a seven-page document to the Senate laying out its criticisms of the legislation.
The document, obtained by The Daily Beast, argues that sanctioning Turkey would only push it closer to Russia and put a wrench in the country’s relationship with NATO.
Co-sponsored by Senators Jim Risch (R-ID) and Bob Menendez (D-NJ), the “Promoting American National Security and Preventing the Resurgence of ISIS Act” would not only impose sanctions for the Russian missile purchase but also prohibit the U.S. from selling Turkey “F-16 or F-35 fighter jets, including parts, until the country has fully abandoned the S-400 missile defense system it purchased from Russia.”
The Trump administration also voiced opposition to a provision in the legislation that would help Kurdish refugees immigrate to the U.S. more quickly, The Daily Beast reported.
But the primary concern raised in the letter involves the unintended consequence of pushing Turkey toward reliance on Russia or “other adversary arms providers” for weapons, “effectively terminate U.S.-Turkey defense trade.”
The administration also warned that the bill would “treat Turkey as a pariah in NATO, feeding a narrative that the Russian Federation would likely seek to amplify and exploit.”
In terms of Kurdish refugees, the document states: “The President has been clear on this Administration’s approach to refugees as reflected in the National Security Strategy of the United States.”
It further argues that the provision offering access to Special Immigrant Visas, which The Daily Beast noted are “normally used to authorize travel to the U.S. for Iraqi and Afghan translators who faced retaliation because they helped American soldiers”, would inhibit America’s ability “to accommodate vital national security screening.”
Another provision of the bill would sanction the Turkish bank Halkbank, which is accused of “participating in a multi-billion-dollar sanctions-evasion operation on behalf of the Iranian government.” The Trump administration currently has the authority to sanction the bank, but to date, it has failed to do so.
However, John Demers, chief of the Justice Department’s National Security Division, has called Halkbank’s actions “one of the most serious Iran sanctions violations we have seen.”
The Daily Beast noted that Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s personal attorney, has done legal work for Reza Zarrab — “a gold trader who pleaded guilty to participating in the sanctions-dodging scheme that allegedly involved Halkbank.” Giuliani had lobbied the Trump administration to send Zarrab back to Turkey as part of a prisoner swap, but his pleas were fruitless.
In the letter to senators, the Trump administration wrote: “[T]he sanctions on Halkbank are unnecessary because the Department of Treasury already possesses the authority to designate Halkbank, if appropriate. Purporting to require the President to impose sanctions on Halkbank, constrains the President’s authority to conduct foreign relations.”
Despite the administration's objections, the bill passed out of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.