Congress to make Trump impose sanctions on Turkey?
Congressional Republicans and Democrats are threatening to force U.S. President Donald Trump’s hand in sanctioning Turkey if he does not outline soon what further punishment awaits the NATO ally for purchasing a Russian-made antimissile S-400 system in defiance of U.S. sanctions targeting such transactions with Moscow.
According to The Washington Post, lawmakers want the U.S. leader to impose sanctions on Turkey. Trump announced in July the cancellation of the F-35, but he has not indicated whether his administration will apply additional sanctions.
The president has resisted that idea as his national security team seeks to prevent Turkey from invading northeastern Syria, where U.S. allies — local Kurdish fighters whom the Turkish government considers a threat — have been battling the ISIS. As Trump deliberates, key lawmakers are weighing how to act if he does not.
Under the CAATSA law, the president must implement at least five of 12 sanctions categories at his disposal, measures that include denying export licenses, loans and other banking transactions, and visas to the United States. The president has the power to waive those sanctions if he determines it is in the country’s national security interest, but the majority of senators are opposed to him using that authority.
Sen. Jeanne Shaheen has suggested "tiered sanctions" detailing step-by-step consequences Turkey would face for making progressively closer moves toward Russia — reasoning that such an approach would leave Trump "some ability to continue to negotiate" with Turkey "and encourage them to stay in NATO."
Already, both the Senate and House versions of next year’s defense authorization bill block Turkey from procuring the F-35. Shaheen and Sen. James Lankford also wrote an amendment explicitly stating that Trump should impose sanctions on Turkey for accepting Russia’s S-400 antimissile system.
"We want to make clear . . . sanctions apply. If another country wants to go out and buy Russian systems, they’ll have the same response from the United States," Lankford said.
"We would have to pass a law that wipes out any sort of national security waiver — which we try not to do because we want to give presidents that flexibility," Sen. Marco Rubio noted. "But if it’s abused, we’ll have to act, I imagine."
“Either it matters or it doesn’t. What country in the world would ever listen to us in the future if we allow [Turkey] to do this without facing consequences?" Rubio stressed.
Trump expressed sympathy for Turkey’s position when he met Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan at a G20summit in Japan, saying Ankara had bought the S-400s from Moscow because the previous U.S. administration would not sell it the Patriot defense system made by Raytheon Co. “Right now, I don’t believe Trump is of the same opinion of those below him and he has said this in front of all the world’s media," Erdogan said. "By buying the S-400s, we are not getting ready for war. We are trying to guarantee peace and our national security."