The United States has imposed sanctions on Turkey over its purchase of the Russian S-400 air defence system, following a gradual deterioration in relations between the two NATO allies. The sanctions cover those on Turkey's Presidency of Defence Industries, its chief Ismail Demir, the nation's military procurement agency, as well as three other senior officials.
The measures include a freeze on any assets that the four officials hold in the US and also ban their entry into the country. A ban on a significant number of defence export licences, loans and credits is part of the sanctions.
"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," explained US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo yesterday. "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."
Pompeo urged 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," he insisted, "and we seek to continue our decades-long history of productive defence-sector cooperation by removing the obstacle of Turkey's S-400 possession as soon as possible."
The claim that the S-400 defence system could interfere with NATO security has been rejected repeatedly by Turkey. Ankara cites the fact that other NATO allies such as Greece also possess Russian air defence systems, albeit the older S-300 version.
In response to the sanctions and Pompeo's remarks, Turkey's defence ministry said that, "President Trump himself has admitted on many instances that Turkey's acquisition was justified," because the US refused to sell the country its own Patriot air defence system which forced Turkey to look elsewhere. The ministry warned that Turkey "will retaliate in a manner and timing it deems appropriate," and urged the US to reconsider this "unfair" decision.
These sanctions have been debated and expected over the past year, but were reportedly held off until now due to the close relations between US President Donald Trump and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. They are said to have had regular phone conversations with each other over the past few years.
During that time, however, the US Congress was secretly blocking major arms deals to Turkey due to the S-400 issue. This revealed widespread mistrust of Ankara amongst politicians in Washington and members of the Trump administration.