US President Donald Trump’s administration on Monday imposed sanctions on its NATO ally Turkey over its purchase of a Russian air defence system, setting the stage for a further confrontation between the two nations as President-elect Joe Biden prepares to take office.
The move comes at a delicate time in relations between Washington and Ankara, which have been at odds for more than a year over Turkey’s acquisition from Russia of the S-400 missile defence system, along with Turkish actions in Syria, the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan and in the eastern Mediterranean.
The US had previously kicked Turkey out of its F-35 stealth fighter development and training programme over the purchase, but had taken no further steps despite persistent warnings from American officials who have long complained about the purchase of the S-400, which they say is incompatible with NATO equipment and a potential threat to allied security.
“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 US military technology and personnel and provide substantial funds to Russia’s defence sector, as well as Russian access to the Turkish armed forces and defence 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 defence requirements,” he said in a statement.
The US sanctions target Turkey’s Presidency of Defence Industries, the country’s military procurement agency, its chief Ismail Demir and three other senior officials. The penalties block any assets the four officials may have in US jurisdictions and bar their entry into the US. They also include a ban on most export licences, loans and credits to the agency.
The administration had held off on imposing punitive sanctions outside of the fighter programme for months, in part to give Turkish officials time to reconsider deploying it and, some suspect, due to President Donald Trump’s personal relationship with Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
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