U.S. imposes sanctions on Turkey over purchase of Russian defense system

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan talks to media following the Friday prayers in Istanbul, Turkey.

The United States on Monday imposed sanctions on Turkey over its purchase of Russian ground-to-air defenses and targeted the top Turkish defense development body, its president and three employees.

The move, while focused on the defense sector, including Turkey’s Defence Industries Directorate (SSB), has drawn a condemnation from NATO-ally Ankara and is likely to further strain Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan’s relations with Western allies.

The sanctions include a ban on all U.S. export licences as well as asset freezes and visa restrictions for SSB’s president, Ismail Demir, and three other employees.

They threaten to damage Turkey’s economy at a time when it is struggling with a coronavirus-induced slowdown and double-digit inflation.

Ankara acquired the Russian S-400 ground-to-air defenses in mid-2019 and says they pose no threat to NATO allies. Washington disagrees and has long threatened sanctions, and last year removed Turkey from an F-35 jet program.

The U.S. measures announced on Monday under the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) would be enacted by U.S. President Donald Trump as President-elect Joe Biden prepares to take office on January 20.

Just ahead of the U.S. announcement, Erdogan said the sanctions rhetoric was upsetting. “From our NATO ally the United States, we expect support in our battle against terrorist organizations and forces that have plans for our region, not sanctions,” he said after a cabinet meeting.

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