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US imposes sanctions on Turkey over purchase of Russian missile defenses in 2017

WASHINGTON – The Trump administration on Monday issued sanctions against the Turkish Military Acquisitions Agency to punish the NATO ally more than three years after it bought a missile defense system from Russia.

The travel and economic sanctions imposed on Turkey’s Defense Industries Presidency and four of its senior officials were as much a warning to other countries – including India, Egypt and Saudi Arabia – which are considering d ‘buy weapons and other military equipment in Moscow.

The announcement of the sanctions, in the final weeks of President Trump’s tenure, also showed the willingness of US officials to move beyond his affinity for Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and to demand the country to report on the possibility that Russia could. infiltrate western defense technology.

Turkey’s refusal to forgo its 2017 purchase of Russia’s S-400 missile defense system ultimately left us with no choice, said Christopher Ford, Assistant Secretary of State for International Security .

“This is not a step we took lightly, or certainly quickly,” Ford told reporters in a briefing shortly after Mr. Trump approved the sanctions. “And that was very carefully pursued, and we tried very hard to give Ankara every chance to find a better way forward, and it didn’t.

Mr Trump resisted the imposition of sanctions last year, after Russia handed over the missile defenses to Turkey, angering members of Congress who last week approved their mandatory inclusion in a bill on military spending for 2021. Turkish officials stoked US irritation by testing the defense system in October. on warnings to keep it dormant.

“Having seen President Trump repeatedly refuse to hold Turkey and President Erdogan accountable, I am happy to see this administration finally impose the required sanctions – even if only under the imminent threat of further measures from the EU. Congress, ”said Senator Chris Van Hollen, Democrat of Maryland.

In Ankara, the Turkish capital, a statement from the Foreign Ministry urged “the United States to reconsider this unjust decision announced today and to rectify this serious error as soon as possible”.

“Turkey will take the necessary measures against this decision, which will negatively affect our relations and retaliate in the right way and at the right time,” the statement said. “Turkey will never refrain from taking the necessary measures to safeguard its national security.”

The sanctions will impose economic sanctions on US exports, permits, or loans to the Turkish military purchasing agency and freeze the US-held assets of four of its senior officials. The four officials are also banned from entering the United States.

Although the sanctions are limited to the military procurement agency, Turkish analysts said the sanctions would limit the country’s defense industry and diplomacy with other countries.

“These sanctions are not ‘light’ as expected, but at ‘medium’ dose,” says Asli Aydintasbas, journalist and member of the European Council for External Relations.

The Turkish government also noted that Mr. Trump personally called the threat of sanctions “not really fair” in July 2019, when he blamed the Obama administration for the multi-year conflict. At the time, Mr Trump said former President Barack Obama refused to sell US-made Patriot missile defenses to Turkey, leaving him no choice but to purchase Russian equipment. In fact, the Obama administration has considered selling Patriot missiles to Turkey, but negotiations have repeatedly been scuttled.

As a direct result of the sale of the S-400, the United States canceled its contract to deliver F-35 stealth fighter jets to Turkey out of fear that the Russians could exploit their sensitive capabilities while operating on the same systems. defense.

This widened a growing rift between Turkey and the United States – if not between their two leaders – over human rights and Mr. Erdogan’s expansionist military operations in Syria, Libya, the Caucasus and the United States. eastern Mediterranean. The European Union is also considering sanctions against Turkey for drilling gas reserves in disputed Mediterranean waters claimed by Greece and Cyprus.

Although the United States and much of Europe have aligned themselves against Turkey, neither wants the strategically located Muslim-majority state to leave NATO. Despite its purchase of missile defense systems, Turkey disagrees with Russia on most geopolitical issues and largely serves as a bulwark against its advances against the West.

“Turkey is a NATO ally and in many ways a very close friend, a long-time partner,” Ford told reporters when announcing the sanctions. “This series of questions was particularly difficult to resolve, and that is why it took a while.”

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