The Trump administration is leveling harsh, new sanctions on NATO-ally Turkey for its purchase of Russian missile defense systems.
The sanctions include banning all US export licenses and loans to the agency that buys Turkey’s defense systems. They also include freezing all assets owned by several Turkish government officials.
The recently acquired S-400 systems are just another knot in the string of events that the Islamic republic has been weaving for years as Turkey remains at odds with the US over its actions in Syria, the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan, and in the eastern Mediterranean.
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“The United States made clear to Turkey at the highest levels and on numerous occasions that its purchase of the S-400 system would endanger the security of U.S. military technology and personnel and provide substantial funds to Russia’s defense sector, as well as Russian access to the Turkish armed forces and defense industry,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said.
“Turkey nevertheless decided to move ahead with the procurement and testing of the S-400, despite the availability of alternative, NATO-interoperable systems to meet its defense requirements,” he said in a statement.
“I urge Turkey to resolve the S-400 problem immediately in coordination with the United States,” he said. “Turkey is a valued ally and an important regional security partner for the United States, and we seek to continue our decades-long history of productive defense-sector cooperation by removing the obstacle of Turkey’s S-400 possession as soon as possible.”
The sanctions are a part of a 2017 US law aimed at pushing back at Russia if the government suspected there was a significant cause to retaliate. The move is the first time that law, known as CAATSA, has been used to penalize a US ally.
Turkey’s defense minister condemned the sanctions, saying the decision “has shaken all the values of our alliance.”
“It is clear that the sanctioning of a NATO member will not only hurt the spirit of alliance but also shake trust among allies from its core,” Hulusi Akar said, adding that Turkey had serious security concerns and would take all steps to protect its citizens.
But one Turkish defense official said he does not foresee any changes in relations with the United States. Ismail Demir, the head of Turkey’s military procurement agency, noted the NATO allies will continue working together.
“This is an occasion that should be assessed on its own terms and I think, we expect this to not affect relations much,” Demir told journalists.
Turkey tested the missile defense system in October for the first time, drawing condemnation from the Pentagon.
Several members of Congress applauded the move to hold Turkey accountable, including Sen. James Lankford (R-OK) who said the sanctions are “the right first step in the right direction.”