U.S. Republican senators Lindsey Graham and James Lankford have called on U.S. President Donald Trump to impose sanctions on Turkey, saying that "a valuable ally has drifted."
In a letter published in the Wall Street Journal, the senators said that punishing Turkey for "choosing Russia over the U.S. would be a clear warning."
"Turkey has been an American ally since 1952. İncirlik Air Force Base has been essential in the war on terror. The Turks helped thousands of Syrian refugees. For decades Turkey worked to build a society open to people of all faiths and stood against Russian aggression. But a valuable ally has drifted," the senators said.
Saying that Ankara purchased the S-400 system that's "designed to shoot down" the F-35 jet fighters, the senators noted that allowing Russian advisers to work near F-35s and giving the S-400 radar proximity to American stealth aircraft is "unacceptable."
The U.S. officially removed Turkey from the F-35 joint strike fighter program in July 2019 over Ankara's decision to buy S-400s.
"Diplomats, the Pentagon and senators, including us, warned Turkish government officials that there would be consequences. The president should now follow the law and levy sanctions against Turkish entities," they said.
"President Trump has demonstrated his commitment to putting American interests first. And the president has given Turkey every opportunity to cooperate with NATO. Congress, with broad bipartisan support, included enforcement language on Turkey in last year’s national defense authorization," they added.
According to the senators, sanctioning Ankara would make other nations consider "who is a better trade partner: the U.S. or Russia."
"A failure to follow through would send the message that the U.S. isn’t willing to make hard decisions," they said.
"The people of Turkey are still our friends. But their leadership has chosen to abandon thousands of F-35 jobs, which will dry up once manufacturing stops in 2022, and to invite sanctions on an already struggling economy. It didn’t have to be this way. Yet Turkish leadership is pressing forward and earlier this year reportedly test-fired the Russian missile-defense system," the senators also said.
"The U.S. has an obligation to protect American interests from threats from Iran, Russia and North Korea. Turkey needs to understand the consequences of its decisions."