U.S. Senate Bans Major Defense Sale to Turkey over Russia Deal

The U.S. Senate has passed a major defense bill that would block the sale of U.S. F-35 fighter jets to Turkey unless it abandons a deal to buy S-400 missile-defense systems from Russia.

The legislation, passed by 85-to-10 late on Monday, also contains a provision to block President Donald Trump’s deal with China to allow the telecommunications giant ZTE to stay in business despite violations of U.S. sanctions against Iran and North Korea, Reuters reported.

The two provisions targeting Turkey and ZTE are part of the massive National Defense Authorization Act, which authorizes over $700 billion in defense spending on military programs and weapons.

The House of Representatives has passed its own version of the bill, and the two measures must now be reconciled before a compromise measure can be passed and sent to Trump for his signature or veto.

Turkey is currently one of the partner countries in the F-35 program and had plans to buy about 100 of the stealth jets, which are manufactured by Lockheed Martin Corp. The Senate bill would prevent delivery of the jets unless Trump certifies that Turkey is not threatening NATO, purchasing defense equipment from Russia, or detaining U.S. citizens.

NATO officials have repeatedly warned Turkey that the Russian S-400 systems it agreed to buy in 2016 are not compatible with NATO defenses, but Turkey has largely dismissed those concerns and proceeded with the Russian deal.

The Senate defense bill’s provision to kill Trump’s agreement to allow ZTE to resume purchases from U.S. technology companies so that it can stay in business is not included in the House version of the bill, which has a narrower ban on the Defense Department using equipment or services from ZTE or fellow Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei.

Under the Trump deal, ZTE would have to pay another $1 billion in fines for its sanctions violations in exchange for the United States dropping an earlier ban on its purchases of equipment from U.S. suppliers, which the company contended would put it out of business.

The move to block Trump’s deal caused a plunge of almost 17 percent in ZTE’s stock value in the first few minutes of trading on the Hong Kong stock exchange on June 19. The company’s stock has fallen by about 60 percent as a result of the U.S. debate over its future.