Washington: The U.S. announced sanctions on a key Turkish defense agency and its leader more than a year after the country received a Russian S-400 air defense system that prompted bipartisan demands in Congress for tougher restrictions on the NATO ally.
The sanctions targeted individuals including Ismail Demir, the head of the defense procurement agency, known as SSB. The sanctions bar SSB from receiving loans from international financial institutions and agencies including the U.S. Export-Import Bank.
“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 Michael Pompeo said in a statement.
The penalties follow more than a year of calls by lawmakers for sanctions and recommendations from the departments of State and Treasury in the summer of 2019, after NATO ally Turkey went ahead with the purchase of the missile defense system, to impose sanctions immediately.
But President Donald Trump, who has long highlighted his personal rapport with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, resisted signing off on sanctions.
The Turkish lira erased losses on the news and was trading little changed at 7.8415 per dollar as of 9:28 p.m. in Istanbul.
Turkey criticized the U.S. action in a measured statement by the foreign ministry, which called on American authorities to “return from this serious mistake.”
“The circumstances that led Turkey to procure S-400 systems in the past are very well known,” the ministry said. “In fact, President Trump himself has acknowledged Turkey’s rightfulness on this issue.”
The sanctions were imposed under the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act, known as CAATSA. The penalties were legally required once Turkey started receiving the S-400, as it did in mid-2019. After Trump balked, Congress inserted language ordering the sanctions be imposed into a defense policy bill that passed last week. – Bloomberg