The United States has imposed long-awaited sanctions on NATO ally Turkey over Ankara’s purchase and testing of a Russian S-400 air defense system.
The sanctions announced Monday target Turkey’s defense industry presidency, the main defense procurement entity, as well as group president Ismail Demir and three other officers. The Turkish officials will face US visa restrictions and their US financial assets will be frozen.
The much-anticipated move will no doubt further increase tensions with Turkey, which is already at odds with the United States on a number of foreign policy issues, and which Russia is actively courting.
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“We deeply regret that this has been necessary and we very much hope that Turkey will work with us to resolve the issue of 400 as soon as possible,” said Deputy Secretary of State Chris Ford on Monday, saying he suggested that other countries take note of the decision and avoid purchasing Russian equipment.
Turkey purchased Russia’s S-400 long-range surface-to-air missile system in 2017 through sanctioned Russian export entity Rosoboronexport. Turkey received the first corresponding delivery last July and did not test the system until October of this year. The US responded by removing Turkey from its F-35 jet fighter program.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and other US officials have threatened sanctions against Ankara as part of the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA), even before the purchase of the Russian weapons system, but refrained from taking action.
“It took time to resolve this complex set of issues, including in particular the fact that Turkey is a NATO ally, so I wouldn’t read too much about the timing of this and why today and not yesterday, or three months ago, this is the time it took to complete that consultation process, ”said Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Bureau for European and Eurasian Affairs Matthew Palmer.
The Trump administration offered Turkey several times Raytheon’s Patriot missile system as an alternative to the Russian system, but the deal fell through when Ankara insisted that the US also share the system’s sensitive missile technology.
Turkey condemned Monday’s decision.
“President Trump himself has admitted in many cases that the takeover of Turkey was justified,” the Turkish Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
NBC News has previously reported on the close relationship between President Donald Trump and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The State Department declined to comment on the internal deliberations surrounding the decision when asked whether punitive action had been delayed to avoid thwarting Erdogan.
Under the National Defense Authorization Act passed last week by Congress with a veto-raid majority, the Trump administration should take action against Turkey before the office leaves. The State Department denied that the act played a role in the timing of the decision.
“What we did today is consistent with what the CAATSA provisions are in that legislation, but it was not driven by it,” Ford said Monday. “It is driven by our desire to comply with the law as it is currently in the law books and I think we have indeed.”