June 19 (UPI) -- The United States is considering economic and military sanctions against Turkey if it proceeds with buying a Russian air defense system, officials said.
At issue is a plan by Turkey, a NATO member, to purchase the S-400 surface-to-air missile defense system. On Friday the Pentagon announced it would remove Turkey from participation in manufacturing elements of the F-35 Lightning II fighter plane by moving industrial operations to other countries. Turkey is one of nine countries in which parts of the plane are made. Turkish companies currently manufacture 937 of the plane's parts, largely in the landing gear and the main body.
Receipt of the Russian defense system would also mean that no new F-35s would enter service in the Turkish military, and Turkish pilots would no longer have access to training. U.S. officials fear that the S-400 system, which is not compatible with NATO systems, will allow Russia to gather closely guarded data on the F-35.
"As we have very clearly communicated at all levels, Turkey will not receive the F-35 if Turkey takes delivery of the S-400 system. Thus, we need to begin unwinding Turkey's participation in the F-35 program," Ellen Lord, undersecretary of defense for acquisition and sustainment, said Friday. She added that Turkish involvement would end by 2020 in a "very disciplined and graceful wind-down. We want to have a process that is not disruptive to the program and allows the Turks to wind down their activities, as well. We do not want to have the F-35 in close proximity to the S-400 over a period of time because of the ability to understand the profile of the F-35."
The White House is considering hindering the Turkish economy through sanctions, unnamed officials familiar with the matter said. Representatives of the National Security Council, the State Department and the Treasury Department are currently involved in discussions.
Several Turkish defense companies could be targeted with sanctions under the Countering America's Adversaries Through Sanctions Act, which penalizes entities involved in business with Russia. The sanctions would have the effect of removing those companies from the U.S. financial system by severely reducing their ability to buy U.S. components or sell their products in the United States.
The already-battered Turkish lira was trading 0.6 percent weaker against the U.S. dollar in Istanbul at noon on Wednesday, after falling as much 1.5 percent. The currency lost 30 percent of its value against the U.S. dollar in 2018, and another 11 percent thus far in 2019. Bonds and stocks fell on Wednesday, with the yield on 10-year government debt jumping 38 basis points to 18 percent. The benchmark Borsa Istanbul 100 Index was headed for it first downturn in four days.