US sanctions NATO ally Turkey over Russian missile defense

Tuesday, December 15, 2020

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Trump administration on Monday imposed sanctions on its NATO ally Turkey over its purchase of a Russian air defense system, in a striking move against a longtime partner that sets the stage for further confrontation between the two nations as President-elect Joe Biden prepares to take office.

The extraordinary step against a treaty ally comes at a delicate time in relations between Washington and Ankara, which have been at odds for years over Turkey’s acquisition from Russia of the S-400 missile defense system, along with Turkish actions in Syria, the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan and in the eastern Mediterranean.

The sanctions, which were required under a 2017 U.S. law aimed at pushing back on Russia if the administration deemed there was significant cause, add another element of uncertainty to the relationship as Trump winds down his term. The move is the first time that law, known as CAATSA, has been used to penalize a U.S. ally. Prior to Monday, the U.S. had kicked Turkey out of its F-35 stealth fighter development and training program over the S-400 purchase, but had taken no further steps despite persistent warnings from American officials who have long complained about that the system 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 U.S. military technology and personnel and provide substantial funds to Russia’s defense sector, as well as Russian access to the Turkish armed forces and defense 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 defense requirements,” he said in a statement.

“I urge Turkey to resolve the S-400 problem immediately in coordination with the United States,” he said. “Turkey is a valued ally and an important regional security partner for the United States, and we seek to continue our decades-long history of productive defensesector cooperation by removing the obstacle of Turkey’s S-400 possession as soon as possible.”

Turkey’s foreign ministry said in a statement it “condemns and rejects” the U.S. sanctions, saying Washington’s one-sided sanctions were beyond understanding.

“Turkey will take the necessary steps against this decision, which will inevitably affect our relations in a negative way, and reciprocate in a way and time it sees fit,” the statement said.

The statement repeated Turkey’s claim that the S-400s would not affect NATO systems. The ministry called on the U.S. to “turn back as soon as possible from this bad mistake,” adding that Ankara was ready for dialogue and diplomacy.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, meanwhile, said the sanctions were evidence of American “arrogance” and would hurt U.S standing internationally.

“It’s yet more evidence of the arrogant attitude (of the U.S.) toward international law, and a manifestation of the illegitimate, unilateral and coercive measures that the U.S. has practiced for many decades now all over the world,” he said during a visit to Bosnia. “Of course, I do not think this does any favors to the United States’ international reputation as a responsible participant in international negotiations, including in military-technical cooperation.”