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US sanctions Turkey for buying Russian S-400 missile systems

A Russian S-400 Triumf air defense system (Vitaliy Ragulin/Wikimedia Commons)
December 14, 2020

The U.S. announced sanctions against Turkey on Monday, a year and a half after Turkey purchased Russian S-400 surface-to-air missile systems in violation of U.S. sanctions against Russian defense equipment and despite numerous U.S. and NATO warnings against the transaction.

Announcing the sanctions, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said, “Today, the United States is imposing sanctions on the Republic of Turkey’s Presidency of Defense Industries (SSB) pursuant to Section 231 of the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) for knowingly engaging in a significant transaction with Rosoboronexport, Russia’s main arms export entity, by procuring the S-400 surface-to-air missile system.”

Pompeo said the new sanctions “include a ban on all U.S. export licenses and authorizations to SSB and an asset freeze and visa restrictions on Dr. Ismail Demir, SSB’s president, and other SSB officers.”

In summer 2019, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Turkey would push through with the purchase of the Russian missile systems despite warnings from the U.S. and other NATO allies.

“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,” 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. “

Pompeo added, “This decision resulted in Turkey’s suspension and pending removal from the global F-35 Joint Strike Fighter partnership.”

The U.S. has also paused deliveries of F-35s to Turkey, which is a partner country in the F-35 program, over its purchase of the Russian S-400 missile systems.

Speaking Monday, Pompeo said, “Today’s action sends a clear signal that the United States will fully implement CAATSA Section 231 and will not tolerate significant transactions with Russia’s defense and intelligence sectors. I also urge Turkey to resolve the S-400 problem immediately in coordination with the United States. 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.”

Turkey has strained its relations with other NATO allies in recent years. NATO allies criticized Turkey and deliberated how to respond after the Middle Eastern NATO member began a military incursion into Syria in the fall of 2019, in which it targeted U.S.-allied Kurdish fighters. During its military incursion, Turkey also began joint patrols alongside Russian forces in Syria.