The Trump administration has imposed long-awaited sanctions on Turkey in retaliation for its decision to purchase a Russian missile defense system, hitting the country’s military supply agency and four senior officials.
The sanctions include a ban on all US export licenses and authorizations to Turkey’s Defense Industries Presidency (SSB), the government agency that manages Turkey’s military procurement and defense exports, as well as a asset freeze and visa restrictions for Ismail Demir, president of SSB, and other SSB officers.
“Today’s action sends a clear signal that the United States. . . will not tolerate major transactions with Russia’s defense and intelligence sectors, ”US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Monday.
He added that the United States had made it clear to NATO member Turkey “at the highest level and on many occasions” that its purchase of Moscow S-400 System endanger the security of US military technology and personnel. He also fears that the operation will provide substantial funds to the Russian defense sector and give Moscow access to the Turkish armed forces and defense industry.
Turkey had already been removed NATO’s F-35 fighter program following its purchase.
Donald Trump was already required to sanction those who “knowingly engage” in transactions with the Russian defense and intelligence sectors, under a law known as the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act. The US president had, however, repeatedly delayed taking action against Turkey despite pressure from Congress.
U.S. lawmakers have increased the pressure on Mr. Trump to including a clause in this year’s National Defense Authorization Act – a defense spending bill that passed both houses of Congress last week with a veto-proof majority, but failed has not yet been enacted – which compelled it to act.
The fear of harsh sanctions that could cripple the Turkish economy has weighed in the minds of foreign investors for years.
After losing nearly 25% of its value this year, the Turkish lira was trading flat against the dollar after the announcement.
Ozgur Unluhisarcikli, Ankara bureau chief of the German Marshall Fund, a US think tank, said the measures announced by Washington were “on the lighter end of the spectrum” compared to much tougher options including the president. American had. .
The Turkish economy has long suffered from the uncertainty surrounding sanctions, he said, adding: “There is at least now clarity.”
A person familiar with the decision said the sanctions were designed to avoid harming the extensive ties between the U.S. and Turkish military.
Nonetheless, the move could deal a blow to NATO’s second-largest army and the burgeoning Turkish defense industry given SSB’s role as a key node for the procurement and production of Turkish defense.
“Today, these four individuals and one entity are infected,” said Arda Mevlutoglu, an Ankara-based defense consultant. “European countries and companies may be reluctant to be seen doing business with these entities. This is bad news. “
The Turkish Foreign Ministry condemned the decision, which it called a “serious mistake”. He urged the United States to reconsider their decision.
The Pentagon said in a statement: “Turkey is an important and valued ally of NATO, but this issue continues to be a significant obstacle to the progress of our bilateral relations.”
Even though the measures were deemed relatively light, the US decision to impose sanctions on another NATO member underscores the extent of the tension between Turkey and its traditional Western allies.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s desire to pursue what he sees as an independent foreign policy, and his increasing use of hard power tactics to achieve his goals, have alarmed officials not only in Washington but also in European capitals.
Last week, EU leaders agreed to develop new sanctions against Ankara – albeit those who should be closely targeted – in retaliation for what they called its “unilateral actions and provocations” in a Mediterranean dispute over natural gas.