United States Sanctions Turkey Over S-400 Missile Purchase

The S-400 missiles purchased by Turkeyy from Russia in 2019. File photo

The United States is finally sanctioning Turkey over the fellow NATO country’s purchase of the S-400 missile system from Russia in 2019, according to a statement released by the US State Department on Monday afternoon.

In the document, Secretary of State Michael Pompeo says: “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.

Pompeo went on to say that the long-awaited 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 move was long in coming, as viewed by Greece and other nations in the Mediterranean, which have had to deal with continued provocations by Turkey in the past year.

Pompeo stated “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.”

Pompeo had recently had harsh words for the US’ fellow NATO member at the recent meeting of foreign ministers of the group, saying uncharacteristically that it was a “destabilizing force” in the Mediterranean region.

Congress hoped to make the issue moot by passing its annual defense bill last Friday, which required the White House to implement the sanctions within 30 days. The bill indeed passed by such an overwhelming majority, far past the 2/3 majority that is required, that it was immune to a presidential veto.

Turkey’s purchase of the S-400s was a clear violation of a sweeping sanctions law passed in the House and Senate in the Summer of 2017 by wide margins in en effort to force Trump to be tougher on Turkey and Russia. The President, who desired to avoid an embarrassing veto override, signed the law against his wishes.

The CAATSA, or Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act, targeted Iran, North Korea, and Russia, making sanctions mandatory on any country which made what the bill termed a “significant purchase” of military equipment from Moscow.

In a Tweet published immediately after the sanctions were announced, Secretary of State Pompeo said: “Despite our warnings, Turkey moved ahead with its purchase and testing of the S-400 system from Russia. Today’s sanctions on Turkey’s SSB demonstrates the US will fully implement #CAATSA.”

A statement from the spokesperson for the State Department, released on Monday, said:

“SSB is Turkey’s primary defense procurement entity and has responsibilities in defense industrial development. As a part of this action, the United States is imposing full blocking sanctions and visa restrictions on Ismail Demir, the president of SSB; Faruk Yigit, SSB’s vice president; Serhat Gencoglu, SSB’s Head of the Department of Air Defense and Space; and Mustafa Alper Deniz, Program Manager for SSB’s Regional Air Defense Systems Directorate.

“CAATSA 231 and today’s actions are not intended to undermine the military capabilities or combat readiness of Turkey or any other U.S. ally or partner, but rather to impose costs on Russia in response to its wide range of malign activities. 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.

“CAATSA 231 requires that at least five of the 12 sanctions described in Section 235 of CAATSA (CAATSA 235) be imposed on any person determined to have knowingly engaged in a significant transaction with a person that is a part of, or operates for or on behalf of, the defense or intelligence sectors of the Government of the Russian Federation. This authority was delegated to the Secretary of State, in consultation with the Secretary of the Treasury, on September 29, 2017. ROE is included on the CAATSA List of Specified Persons (LSP) as a person that is part of, or operates for or on behalf of, the defense sector of the Government of the Russian Federation. In addition to being identified on the LSP, the Treasury Department designated ROE on April 6, 2018, pursuant to Executive Order 13582, for its support to the Government of Syria.

“The Secretary of State, in consultation with the Secretary of Treasury, has selected the following sanctions from CAATSA Section 235, as implemented by Executive Order (E.O.) 13849, to impose on SSB:

“A prohibition on granting specific U.S. export licenses and authorizations for any goods or technology transferred to SSB (Section 235(a)(2)); a prohibition on loans or credits by U.S. financial institutions to SSB totaling more than $10 million in any 12-month period (Section 235(a)(3)); a ban on U.S. Export-Import Bank assistance for exports to SSB (Section 235(a)(1)); a requirement for the United States to oppose loans benefitting SSB by international financial institutions (Section 235(a)(4)); and the imposition of full blocking sanctions and visa restrictions (Section 235(a)(7), (8), (9), (11), and (12)) on Dr. Ismail Demir, president of SSB; Faruk Yigit, SSB’s vice president; Serhat Gencoglu, Head of SSB’s Department of Air Defense and Space; and Mustafa Alper Deniz, Program Manager for SSB’s Regional Air Defense Systems Directorate.

“Today’s action further demonstrates the Department of State’s continuing commitment to the full implementation of CAATSA 231. State encourages all persons to avoid engaging in transactions with entities on the LSP that may risk mandatory sanctions, including those for high-value, sophisticated weapons systems.

“The Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) has added SSB to its Non-SDN Menu-Based Sanctions List, which indicates that SSB is subject to the sanctions from the CAATSA 235 menu listed above.

“The OFAC also added the four individual officers to its Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons List. As a result of this action, all property and interests in property of these individuals within United States jurisdiction are blocked, and United States persons are generally prohibited from transacting with them.

“In addition, any entities that are owned, directly or indirectly, 50 percent or more by one or more blocked persons are also blocked. Unless authorized by a general or specific license issued by OFAC, or otherwise exempt, OFAC’s regulations generally prohibit all transactions by U.S. persons or within (or transiting) the United States that involve any property or interests in property of designated or otherwise blocked persons.

“The prohibitions include the making of any contribution or provision of funds, goods, or services by, to, or for the benefit of any blocked person or the receipt of any contribution or provision of funds, goods, or services from any such person.”