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The United States Sanctions Turkey Under CAATSA

December 15, 2020

On December 14, The U.S. Secretary of State, in consultation with the Department of Treasury, imposed sanctions on Turkey over its purchase of the Russian S-400 Air and Missile Defense System. The U.S. Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) has added SSB to its Non-SDN Menu-Based Sanctions (NS-MBS) List, which indicates that SSB is subject to the sanctions from Section 235 of CAATSA (CAATSA 235). OFAC also added the President of Defense Industries Prof. Dr. İsmail DEMİR, Vice President of Defense Industries Faruk YİĞİT, Head of Air Defense and Space Serhat GENÇOĞLU, and Program Manager for Regional Air Defense Systems Directorate Mustafa Alper DENİZ to its Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons List, imposing full blocking sanctions and visa restrictions.

The U.S. Secretary of State, Michael R. POMPEO, released a statement on Monday announcing the United States' decision to sanction Turkey under CAATSA. "Today, the United States is imposing sanctions on the Republic of Turkey's Presidency of Defense Industries (SSB) pursuant to Section 231 of the Countering America's Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) for knowingly engaging in a significant transaction with Rosoboronexport, Russia's main arms export entity, by procuring the S-400 surface-to-air missile system. The sanctions include a ban on all U.S. export licenses and authorizations to SSB and an asset freeze and visa restrictions on Dr. Ismail Demir, SSB's president, and other SSB officers.

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. 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. This decision resulted in Turkey's suspension and pending removal from the global F-35 Joint Strike Fighter partnership.

Today's action sends a clear signal that the United States will fully implement CAATSA Section 231 and will not tolerate significant transactions with Russia's defense and intelligence sectors. I also urge Turkey to resolve the S-400 problem immediately in coordination with the United States. 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 defense-sector cooperation by removing the obstacle of Turkey's S-400 possession as soon as possible."

Following the announcement of the sanctions, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs made the following statement: "We condemn and reject the decision to impose unilateral sanctions against Turkey as announced today by the U.S. in the context of Turkey's acquisition of S-400 Air Defense Systems. The conditions which compelled Turkey to acquire S-400 systems are well known. President Trump himself has admitted on many instances that Turkey's acquisition was justified. U.S. allegations that S-400 systems will jeopardize NATO systems are devoid of any technical merit. Moreover, Turkey has repeatedly proposed to address this issue in an objective, realistic, and politically unbiased manner through a working group with the participation of NATO.

Therefore, the U.S. recourse to unilateral sanctions, by refusing our proposal to solve this matter through dialogue and diplomacy as befitting two allies, is completely senseless. Turkey will take the necessary steps against this decision, which will negatively affect our relations, and will retaliate in a manner and timing it deems appropriate. Turkey will never refrain from taking the necessary measures to safeguard its national security. With this understanding, we urge the U.S. to reconsider this unfair decision as announced today and to rectify this grave mistake as soon as possible, while emphasizing once again that Turkey stands ready to address this issue through dialogue and diplomacy in conformity with the spirit of alliance."

Regarding the U.S. Decision to Impose Sanctions Against Turkey, Minister of National Defense, Hulusi AKAR, made a statement and said, "We condemn the U.S. decision to impose sanctions for the procurement of the S-400 Long Range Air and Missile Defense system, which is incompatible with the current military and political realities, and the security of the NATO alliance. It is clear that imposing sanctions on a NATO member country will not only jeopardize the spirit of the alliance but will undermine trust among allies. We will take all the necessary measures for the security of our country and 83 million citizens who are under severe air and missile threat. In doing so, we fully fulfill our commitments to all our allies, especially NATO. It is our right to expect our allies to see and understand the security needs of our country and nation.

As stated, many times before, Turkey's procurement of the S-400 system has emerged as a must and not a choice. Our allies have been previously informed that the S-400 will not be integrated into the NATO infrastructure or national systems connected to NATO systems and will be used in the stand-alone configuration like the Russian systems in other NATO countries. Our proposal to discuss the interaction of S-400s and F-35s in a working group that will include NATO when necessary, is still valid. The United States should clearly see that choosing sanctions instead of discussing the solution for the problem is a step towards a deadlock rather than a solution. This sanction has deeply shaken all the values of the alliance between our countries. However, we will continue to work with determination to ensure the defense and security of our country and our noble nation. Returning to cooperation and solidarity with the United States, which has been our ally since the Korean War, on regional and global defense and security issues within the framework of the current military and political situation will not only benefit our countries will make significant contributions to regional and global peace and security."

Making a statement on his official Twitter account about the sanctions, the President of Defense Industries, İsmail DEMİR, said: "Under the leadership of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, we are determined to achieve our goal of a Fully Independent Defense Industry. Any decision targeting our institution or me will not change my team's and my stance and cannot prevent the rise of the Turkish Defense Industry in any way." Later, Demir made additional statements on the Habertürk channel: "This decision will not change the situation of my team and me, and it will not affect the Turkish Defense Industry in any way. There were already some restrictions in practice. It will not have a bigger effect. This decision does not affect the logistics and supply system."