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Turkey’s CAATSA Reactions & Statements

Issue 104

The US Government’s imposition of the CAATSA sanctions against a NATO member country for the first-time sparked reactions in Turkey’s public opinion and condemning US’ resolution, Turkey’s state and government authorities made various statements in response to these sanctions. 

Statements of the Presidency: In his speech at the opening of the 2nd Stage of Niğde-Ankara Highway on December 16, 2020, President Recep Tayyip ERDOĞAN touched upon the CAATSA sanctions and said, “We will speed up the projects of our Presidency of Defense Industries (SSB) and support our defense industry companies further. Just like we previously owned our ministers who were exposed to the sanctions, we will own our President of Defense Industries Prof. İsmail DEMİR and his team more.” ERDOĞAN underlined that the actual aim was to hinder Turkey’s achievements in recent years in the defense industry and to render Turkey dependent again. President ERDOĞAN mentioned that the CAATSA sanctions were being applied for the first time to a NATO member country, and that Turkey was subject to this first imposition and added, “What kind of an alliance is this? What kind of an ally is this? This resolution is an obvious attack on our country’s sovereignty rights.” Reiterating that Turkey made the necessary attempts to minimize the effects of the S-400 problem, President ERDOĞAN stressed that the actual objective of this resolution was malevolent. 

On January 15, 2021, responding to questions from the press after attending his Friday prayer, President ERDOĞAN stated that the negotiations on the purchase of the second S-400 System from the Russian Federation continued and added: “We completed the first package of S-400 systems and presently the process regarding the second group continues based on our previous negotiation. We will have another negotiation with Russia at the end of this month; we will be discussing many additional topics in this meeting." ERDOĞAN noted that though a substantial amount was paid for the F-35s, the fighter jets were not delivered. “We do not know what BIDEN administration’s responses will be, but we cannot make our defense initiatives by getting permission from certain authorities. Upon BIDEN’s assignment we will take much more positive steps as we hold negotiations and turn the tide.” 

Vice President Fuat OKTAY: “The decision of the US on the imposition of sanctions will only increase our determined steps taken to forward our national interests and the defense industry under the leadership of our President. Turkey’s proud stance will not be affected by the sanctions of any country. We condemn the US resolution and invite them to correct this mistake.” 

Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ Statement: In his statement on December 14, 2020 regarding the CAATSA sanctions, Minister of Foreign Affairs Mevlüt ÇAVUŞOĞLU said, “We declined US sanctions. This is a national issue. We will all resist and stand tall with pride.” 

Ministry of National Defense (MoND): The Turkish Ministry of National Defense issued a statement on December 15, 2020 regarding the CAATSA sanctions applied by the US on the President of Defense Industries Prof. İsmail DEMİR, Presidency staff and the Presidency. The ministerial statement featured the following: “We condemn the US resolution on the application of sanctions due to our country’s procurement of S-400 Long Range Area Air and Missile Defense System. This resolution does not comply with the alliance, with the existing military and political realities and the security of the NATO alliance. Beyond damaging the spirit of the alliance, such application of sanctions on a NATO member will clearly violate the trust among allies… Procurement of the S-400 systems did not emerge as a choice for Turkey, as we expressed many times, it emerged as an obligation. Our allies were notified that the S-400 would not be integrated with the NATO systems or the national systems connected with the NATO systems and that they would be used like the systems with Russian origin in other NATO countries. Our proposal for negotiating the interaction of S-400s and F-35s in a workgroup also with the involvement of NATO still stands. Imposing sanctions instead of discussing a solution to the problem is a step towards a deadlock. This should be perceived clearly. This resolution on the application of sanctions stirred all the values of the alliance among our countries. However, the efforts towards maintaining the defense and security of our country and our noble nation will be pursued in a determined manner.”

Minister of National Defense Hulusi AKAR gave an interview to HaberTürk newspaper’s journalist Muharrem SARIKAYA on December 18, 2020 and on US sanctions, the Minister said, “Our Presidency of Defense Industries (SSB) may experience difficulties due to the sanctions, but surely they will not be fatal. We have been through a lot. When we did not have any UAVs and A-UAVs, what happened when Israel refused to build the UAV engine? We took care of ourselves. Initially military companies and then civilian companies made great progress. Both the Ministry and the SSB are working on this issue in many aspects. We are identifying the problems and methods of solving them. Life is a dynamic process. The administration, ministers, bureaucrats and the structure are changing in the US. We will observe what is ahead of us. We are standing at a correct point. We did not purchase the S-400 systems discreetly, we requested Patriots. The Patriot batteries from NATO arrived and went back. We need to protect a population of 83 million people. There is a wide variety in respect to the F35s. We perceive developments through global thinking. All options are laid on the table.” 

Presidency of Defense Industries (SSB): Sharing his opinion on the US sanctions on Turkey via his Twitter account on December 14, 2020, Presidency of Defense Industries Prof. İsmail DEMİR said, “We are determined to achieve a Fully Independent Defense Industry under the leadership of our President Recep Tayyip ERDOĞAN. No decisions adopted abroad against me or our institution can change our stance. The Turkish Defense Industry can in no way be restrained.”

In his remarks made to Defence Turkey Magazine, President İsmail DEMİR made the following comment on the CAATSA sanctions and the potential impact on the Turkish Defense and Aerospace Industry: 

“This is not a sanction against Turkey, it merely covers the SSB. The issue of sanctions has been expressed for a long while and they have been underlining that their application was a legal obligation. We do not focus on “what will they think?” while we execute various projects. We do what we believe is correct and what is necessary for our country. People are most anxious about how our defense industry will be affected. There are very few products that are procured directly by our institution. Therefore, we do not expect a significant impact. There is not much that the SSB purchases directly. As the SSB, we identify and mature a project required by our security forces, we carry out its tender process, transfer it to the main contractor and monitor it in the aftermath. Direct procurements are conducted by the main contractors in this process and these companies are not within the scope of the sanctions. The Ministry of National Defense already makes various purchases for the maintenance and repair of the products in its inventory. There are no problems in this respect. This resolution does not imply an imposition of sanctions on Turkey; it only covers the SSB, myself and three colleagues from my team. 

Whether our critical projects are to be affected or not is also an issue of concern.  CAATSA directly targets our Presidency. We are not in charge of the maintenance of other F-16 products in use and our contractors are procuring the parts in our other major projects. So, there are no problems in this respect as well.

I do not believe that we will be witnessing substantial damage if the sanctions are applied in this form. Then again, thinking of the decisions they adopted as part of F-35, we observe certain arbitrary actions. If such actions take place, relations will be deteriorated. From various negotiations, we are aware that the two parties refrain from such damage.

The decision on Eximbank is also an issue of concern. This resolution addresses the SSB as well, and we do not conduct any transactions through it. Thus, there is no problem in concern with our projects and our defense industry companies.

What happens if CAATSA lasts forever? We will carry on with the indigenization process regarding the products we cannot procure. Such indigenization processes will be costly, but when we think of our future, we do not regard the expenses as costs, we consider them as profits. I believe that our defense industry will survive this process and be strengthened under the guidance of President ERDOĞAN.” 

SAHA ISTANBUL: The SAHA Istanbul Defense and Aerospace Cluster criticized the US decision to impose sanctions with a press statement published on December 15, 2020. The statement included the following: “As SAHA Istanbul, we condemn the US resolution on the application of sanctions based on Turkey’s procurement of S-400 air defense systems from Russia. Our country achieved crucial progress in the indigenization of our defense industry through the National Technology Leap pursued for 20 years, our local content rate in defense industry reached 70 percent. Turkey will continue to take firm steps towards achieving its goals in the defense industry in the upcoming period as well. Embargoes and restrictions have so far been a catalyzer of progress instead of hindering Turkey. As SAHA Istanbul, we will continue to exert all our efforts towards a fully independent defense industry with our 574 member companies.” 

OSTIM Defense and Aviation Cluster (OSSA): On December 16, 2020, OSTIM Defense and Aviation Cluster (OSSA) issued a press statement condemning the prohibitions. The statement made by OSSA Chairman of the Board Mithat ERTUĞ on behalf of 269 member companies included the following points: “We condemn the US decision on the application of sanctions based on the procurement of S-400 air defense system. This resolution does not comply with the legislation of alliance.

OSTIM Defense and Aviation Cluster (OSSA) member companies, who have been working with all their strength in building the defense and systems required by our country and assumed critical roles through international cooperation formed by our country, will continue to stand by our Presidency of Defense Industries against the sanctions on our country, as in the past.

Encouraged by the ‘strong SME, strong Turkey’ approach, our SMEs that continued to work and manufacture, even in 3 shifts when required, will not hesitate to take part in the projects with the synergy and collaboration for fulfilling our defense industry’s demands. 

The best response to eliminating the foreign dependence in critical sub-systems and technologies, in line with the goal of achieving a fully independent defense industry as a result of the progress and transformation of Turkey’s defense industry infrastructure and capabilities, will be to continue to work and produce.

As OSSA, we are ready to mobilize all our facilities to improve the development and capabilities of the companies delivering services to the defense industry and to support their contributions to the sector.  

With its powerful structure founded by 269 sub-contractor companies within its body, the OSTIM Defense and Aviation Cluster (OSSA) will continue without pausing, striving to fulfill our country’s requirements in the defense industry despite all difficulties. 

We respectfully inform the public that we will continue to work and manufacture for the survival of our country, the union of our state and our nation and for achieving a stronger defense industry with the President of the SSB Prof. İsmail DEMİR, Vice President of the SSB Faruk YİĞİT, Head of the Air Defense and Space Department of the SSB Serhat GENÇOĞLU and Program Manager of the SSB Area Air Defense Systems Directorate Mustafa Alper DENİZ and all the SSB staff who are exposed to sanctions and we will not be hindered by any obstacles on this path”