The Trump administration on Monday imposed sanctions on its NATO ally Turkey for purchasing a Russian air defense system, paving the way for another confrontation between the two nations as President-elect Joe Biden prepares for office.
The move comes at a delicate time in Washington-Ankara relations, which for more than a year has been in conflict with Turkey’s takeover of the S-400 missile defense system from Russia, as well as Turkish actions in Syria, the conflict between Armenia and Russia stand in Azerbaijan and the Eastern Mediterranean.
The US had previously excluded Turkey from its F-35 stealth fighter development and training program for the purchase, but has not taken any further steps despite ongoing warnings from American officials who long complained about the S-400 purchase incompatible with NATO equipment and a potential threat to Allied security.
“The United States has made it clear to Turkey at the highest level and on numerous occasions that the purchase of the S-400 system will jeopardize the security of US military technology and personnel and will provide substantial resources for the Russian defense sector and access to it would provide the Turkish armed forces and the defense industry, ”said Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
“Turkey has nonetheless chosen to continue sourcing and testing the S-400, although alternative NATO-interoperable systems are available to meet defense requirements,” he said in a statement.
“I urge Turkey to immediately resolve the S-400 problem in coordination with the United States,” he said. “Turkey is a valued ally and an important regional security partner for the United States. We want to continue our decades-long history of productive defense cooperation by removing the obstacle to possession of the Turkish S-400 as soon as possible.” The sanctions are directed against the Turkish defense industry presidency, the country’s military procurement agency, its boss Ismail Demir and three other high-ranking officials. The penalties will block any assets the four US officials may have and barring their entry into the US. They also include a ban on most export licenses, credits, and credits to the agency.
The government had suspended the imposition of penal sanctions outside of the combat program for months to give Turkish officials time to reconsider the operation and, some suspect, because of President Donald Trump’s personal relationship with Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
However, in recent months, Turkey has pushed ahead with its review of the system, which has been criticized by Congress and others who have called for sanctions to be imposed under the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA), which imposes penalties on transactions which are considered harmful to US interests.
Just a month and a half before Biden’s inauguration, the sanctions pose a potential dilemma for the future government, despite the president-elect’s team having signaled that they are against Turkey’s use of the S-400 and the disagreement within NATO may cause.
Last month, Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar said Turkey was ready to discuss with the US its “concerns” about the interoperability of the S-400 and F-35. The US reacted coolly to the proposal and Pompeo did not meet any Turkish government official on a visit to Istanbul shortly afterwards.
Turkey first tested the missile defense system in October and was condemned by the Pentagon.
Ankara says it was forced to buy the Russian system because the US refused to sell it made from American Patriot missiles. The Turkish government has also pointed to double standards as NATO member Greece uses Russian-made missiles. (AP) NSA