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President ERDOĞAN Condemns US Sanctions Over S-400 System

December 17, 2020

On December 16, President Recep Tayyip ERDOĞAN made a statement about the United States' decision to impose sanctions on Turkey over the purchase of S-400 missiles. Speaking at the inauguration ceremony of Niğde-Ankara highway, which he attended via a videoconference, President ERDOĞAN underlined that CAATSA (Countering America's Adversaries Through Sanctions Act) is a blatant attack on Turkey's sovereignty. "The sanctions aim to prevent Turkey's developments in the defense sector and make the country dependent once again. The CAATSA sanctions have never been imposed on any country since they were first approved in 2017. Turkey is the first NATO member country that has faced CAATSA. What kind of alliance is this? This decision is an attack on Turkey's sovereign rights."

Expressing that the sanctions over the purchase of the Russian S-400 defense system were a mere excuse, President ERDOĞAN said there was no logical explanation regarding Turkey's exclusion from the F-35 fighter jet program. "Turkey bought the S-400 system because the United States didn't sell air defense systems to our country for a long time. Besides, Turkey produces nearly a thousand parts of the F-35 aircraft. The United States did not meet any of our needs for obtaining such systems and resorted to the sanctions because we purchased this system elsewhere. The purchase of the Russian S-400 defense system was a mere excuse. Their main goal is to block Turkey's developments in the defense sector and make our country dependent once again."

President Erdogan emphasized that Turkey will not be deterred by such sanctions and said Turkey is now more determined to boost its defense sector. President ERDOĞAN also highlighted that Turkey had reached the point that it can no longer be affected dramatically by any sanctions. "We will accelerate our efforts towards building a defense industry that will be a global leader in every field. We will work twice as hard to make our defense industry fully independent. Turkey was under an arms embargo following the 1974 Cyprus Peace Operation. The sanctions back then laid the foundations of our country's defense industry, and fresh sanctions would only enhance our ambitions to become a global player in this field."

President Erdoğan also strongly emphasized that they will continue to support President of the SSB İsmail Demir and his team despite the sanctions. "We will accelerate the projects of the Presidency of Defense Industries, we will support our defense industry companies more, and we will support and protect the President of Defense Industries, İsmail Demir, and his team, just as we did with the ministers who were sanctioned before. We will continue our close cooperation with our public institutions, foundation companies, and the private sector."

Announcing that the final acceptance tests of the first national air defense missile system, HISAR A+, have been conducted successfully, President ERDOĞAN emphasized that the trials were delayed due to an embargo on some foreign components. "What happened next? We developed the product ourselves in a short time and integrated it into our missile. Despite a small delay, we reached a goal. Using the warhead designed by TÜBİTAK SAGE, our Hisar-A+ air defense system, which was developed by ASELSAN and Roketsan, successfully hit and destroyed a high-speed target aircraft on December 11."

On December 17, the President of Defense Industries, İsmail DEMİR, also made new a statement regarding the CAATSA sanctions. Speaking at Anadolu Agency's Editor's Desk, DEMİR said the CAATSA sanctions only target the SSB but will not affect the existing agreements as they were already signed. "The sanctions will leave most of Turkey's defense industry unaffected, including the Ministry of National Defense, Turkish Armed Forces, and leading defense companies. The sanctions only target the SSB and four other officials." Stating that Turkey is not defined as an "Adversary" by the United States, DEMİR said the purpose of the sanctions, as announced by the U.S. Treasury Department's statement, was not intended to undermine the military capabilities or combat readiness of Turkey. He also highlighted that the sanctions would not deter Turkey but rather will boost its ambitions in the defense industry.

Stating that SSB is not a procurement agency, İsmail Demir underlined that the priority of SSB is project management. "Our priority is to manage defense projects and to ensure the successful accomplishment of these projects by using the defense industry ecosystem in Turkey. Of course, especially in previous years, we were the party that made agreements and sign contracts for direct purchases, but the end-users were always the Ministry of National Defense and the Turkish Armed Forces. The SSB does not purchase or import products directly. Our projects are carried out through defense industry companies, and these companies are not targeted by the sanctions. As SSB, we only manage projects, therefore we do not import products directly.”

Stating that the S-400 agreement should not fall within the scope of CAATSA since it was signed before the enactment of the CAATSA law, İsmail Demir stated that they could not receive a positive response on this issue. Indicating that the F-16s gained more importance after Turkey's exclusion from the F-35 project, Demir said that they do not expect any problems regarding the supply of spare parts within the framework of CAATSA. "As I have mentioned before, we do not purchase or import products directly. We determine the project requirements in close contact with the authorities. We prioritize the needs, and in line with this prioritization, we prepare a financial categorization by looking at the available resources. We oversee the bidding process and finally submit the results to the Defense Industry Executive Committee (SSIK)."

Dear readers, in our 103rd issue, we will discuss the CAATSA process, the approaches of the Turkish and American sides, the relation between the two countries in the next period, and the exit strategy of the Turkish Defense Industry in a comprehensive article.