US sanctions Turkey over acquisition of Russian defense system

Washington, Dec 14 (efe-epa).- The secretary of state of the United States on Monday announced sanctions against NATO ally Turkey over its purchase of Russian S-400 mobile ground-to-air defense systems.

The action was taken against the Presidency of Defense Industries (SSB), Turkey’s military procurement agency, under the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA), marking the first time the US has used that 2017 federal law against a fellow NATO member state.

“Despite our warnings, Turkey moved ahead with its purchase and testing of the S-400 system from Russia. Today’s sanctions on Turkey’s SSB demonstrates the US will fully implement #CAATSA. We will not tolerate significant transactions with Russia’s defense sector,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Twitter.

The sanctions restrict American goods exports and technology transfers to the SSB and also prohibit that entity from receiving more than $10 million in loans from US banks over a 12-month period, two senior State Department officials, Matthew Palmer and Christopher Ford, said in a telephone press conference.

Those two officials furthermore said that Turkish agency also would not be able to obtain aid from the Export-Import Bank of the United States.

In addition, the sanctions freeze any assets that the SSB’s chairman, Ismail Demir, and three other high-ranking employees of that agency may have under US jurisdiction. Visa restrictions also will be imposed on those four individuals.

During the press conference, Palmer, the deputy assistant secretary in the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs; and Ford, assistant secretary for international security and nonproliferation; stressed that the sanctions were imposed after lengthy negotiations with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s administration.

“Imposing sanctions on a NATO ally is not something we take lightly,” said Palmer, who added that Washington highly values Turkey’s contributions to the alliance.

Turkey’s government, meanwhile, slammed the US decision in a sharply worded statement on Monday.

“We condemn and reject the decision to impose unilateral sanctions against Turkey as announced today by the US in the context of Turkey’s acquisition of S-400 air defense systems,” Ankara said. “The conditions which compelled Turkey to acquire S-400 systems are well known. President (Donald) Trump himself has admitted on many instances that Turkey’s acquisition was justified.”

It said the US allegations that the S-400 systems will jeopardize NATO systems were “devoid of any technical merit” and that Turkey had offered to address the issue through a working group with the participation of the 30-member alliance.

“Turkey will take the necessary steps against this decision, which will negatively affect our relations, and will retaliate in a manner and timing it deems appropriate,” the statement read.

Turkey acquired the Russian air defense systems in 2017 for $2.5 billion. Despite US pressure, Erdogan’s administration received the first of four deliveries of missile batteries in July of last year.

A week later, the US retaliated by canceling its contract for the delivery of stealth F-35 jets to Ankara.

The S-400 defense systems’ radar could be used to passively scan and gather intelligence on how the F-35 operates, according to US officials, who have expressed concern that this information might fall into the hands of the Russians and jeopardize NATO’s secrets.

The sanctions further complicate US relations with Turkey just over a month before President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration on Jan. 20. EFE-EPA


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