Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has slammed the US administration for its decision to sanction NATO ally Turkey over the purchase of a Russian missile defense system, describing the move as a blatant attack on the country’s sovereignty.
Attending a highway inauguration ceremony via video conference on Wednesday, Erdoğan said: “Since 2017, these sanctions have not been imposed on any country other than Turkey within the framework of CAATSA [Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act]. It is being used against our country, a NATO member. What kind of an alliance and ally is this? This decision is a blatant attack on our sovereignty.”
Turkey’s purchase of Russia’s S-400 missile system in 2017 triggered the sanctions for violating CAATSA. Along with Turkey’s other NATO partners, the United States says the S-400 compromises NATO’s defense systems, an accusation Ankara denies. It has been reported that the S-400 is capable of shooting down aircraft such as the F-35, the US’s latest fighter jet, according to Voice of American (VOA).
Erdoğan said Turkey was left with no choice other than to purchase the Russian system, claiming the US “refused” to sell its Patriot missile system to Turkey.
According to NBC News, the Trump administration offered Raytheon’s Patriot missile system on multiple occasions to Turkey as an alternative to the Russian system, but the deal fell through when Ankara insisted the US also share the sensitive missile technology associated with the system.
In 2019 the White House removed Turkey from the F-35 joint strike fighter program over concerns that Ankara’s decision to enter a missile defense relationship with Moscow would compromise the security of the program’s sensitive cutting-edge technology.
According to Erdoğan, the real reason behind the US sanctions is to obstruct Turkey’s investments in the defense industry and to make it dependent on the US.
“Thank God Turkey has left behind the days when it hit a deadlock over such sanctions and was unable to move forward. There will certainly be problems, but every problem will bring us toward a solution,” Erdoğan added.
On Tuesday, Erdoğan’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) along with three other opposition parties — the Republican People’s Party (CHP), the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) and the İYİ (Good) Party — released a joint statement condemning the US sanctions on Turkey.
“The wrong step taken by the US cannot be reconciled with the spirit of alliance. It is obvious that it won’t do any favors for our bilateral ties, which should progress based on mutual respect. Turkey does its part to contribute to peace and stability. It is among the respectable and indispensable members of NATO,” the joint statement said, calling on the US to urgently retreat from “a grave mistake.”
The sanctions include a ban on all US export licenses and authorizations to Turkey’s Presidency of Defense Industries as well as asset freezes and visa restrictions against the organization’s president and three other senior officials.
Turkey and the US have been at odds since Ankara’s procurement of the Russian S-400s as they are incompatible with NATO systems.