Moscow says consultations on a delivery contract for the second batch to the Eurasian country are nearing completion

US to maintain sanctions on Turkey over S-400 missile purchases

PHOTO/MURAT CETINMUHURDAR - Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan and US President Joe Biden at the NATO summit in Brussels, Belgium

The United States and Turkey are once again at loggerheads over the latter's purchase of Russian S-400 missiles. In 2017 Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced the acquisition of these missiles against the warnings of his NATO partners. In 2019, the Eurasian country received the first batch of the Russian weapon system and the United States announced the imposition of sanctions.

The conflict over Turkish missiles goes back a long way. In a process of modernising the Turkish armed forces, the Eurasian country launched a public tender for the purchase of a defence system. In the end, the contract was awarded to the Chinese company Cpmiec to the detriment of bids from the French-Italian conglomerate Eurosam and the American Raytheon-Lockheed Martin. NATO fiercely criticised the award of the deal to the Chinese company and Turkey did not go ahead with the project. 


Following multiple tensions between Turkey and the US in recent years, as well as with European countries, Erdogan decided to opt for a deal with Russia for the purchase of the S-400 missiles. Both NATO and the United States have criticised Turkey's decision, saying that this defence system endangers the security of the Atlantic Alliance. The US has repeatedly asserted that Russian military hardware is not compatible with NATO systems. Despite repeated warnings from its Atlantic Alliance partners, Turkey has shown its determination to purchase the Russian equipment.


In 2019, the United States withdrew the Eurasian country from the F-35 Lightning II aircraft programme, arguing that the S-400 airborne missile systems acquired by Turkey could be used by Russia to covertly obtain classified details of Lockheed Martin F-35 aircraft. Subsequently, in December 2020, the Trump Administration, one step away from leaving the White House, announced sanctions against Turkey over the same issue. Former US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo stressed that "despite our warnings, Turkey has proceeded to purchase and test Russia's S-400 system". The sanctions imposed by the US on Turkey mainly affect the leadership of the conglomerate Defence Industries (SSB) and block any assets of four senior officials that they may have in US jurisdictions and prohibit their entry into the US. They also include a ban on most export licenses, loans and credits to the agency. 


This situation is exceptional because it is the first time CAATSA has been used to penalise an American ally, a US law designed to both roll back Russian influence and protect the Atlantic Alliance's sphere in this regard. Ties between these two supposed NATO allies have been plagued by numerous disputes, including the imprisonment of US citizens and local consular staff, US support for Syrian Kurdish fighters deemed terrorists by Turkey, and the continued residence in the US of Fethullah Gulen, a Muslim cleric accused of masterminding the 2016 coup attempt.

Once again, Turkey's purchase of the Russian S-400 system has once again sparked a confrontation with the United States. The Biden administration has announced that it will maintain the sanctions imposed on the Eurasian country for the purchase of the Russian defence system, and has also warned that it will impose further sanctions if Turkey buys more major weapons systems from Russia. "[Washington's] sale and co-production of the F-35 [in Ankara] will remain suspended," said Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Victoria Nuland.


For its part, Turkey has asked the US to hold talks to find a mutually beneficial solution to the S-400 purchase. Until such time as a common ground is reached between the two countries, Turkey continues to negotiate with Russia over the purchase of more equipment. This week, the head of Russia's main arms export agency announced that Moscow was in the process of completing consultations for a contract to deliver a second batch of S-400 missiles to Turkey.