US officials are pressuring Turkey to stop Russian airlines from flying American-made airplanes to and from the country, officials familiar with the talks told The Wall Street Journal, signaling a new push in Washington to persuade countries to enforce sanctions imposed on Moscow after its invasion of Ukraine last year.
Senior American officials warned last month that Turkish individuals are at risk of jail time, fines, loss of export privileges and other measures if they provide services like refueling and spare parts to US-made planes flying to and from Russia and Belarus in violation of export controls imposed last year, the officials said. US Assistant Secretary of Commerce Thea Rozman Kendler delivered the message to Turkish officials during a December visit to Turkey, the officials said.
Turkey, which has balanced its good relations with both Russia and Ukraine since Moscow invaded its neighbor in February, has not joined the Western sanctions on Russia.
The warning to Turkey is a key test of whether the US and its allies can succeed in isolating Russia over the long term, or whether Moscow can find a way to continue economic activity with the help of third countries that are central to the Kremlin’s strategy of finding partners outside the West. The Turkish Foreign Ministry didn’t respond to a request for comment on the warning.
“At a certain point, they will have to take an enforcement-related action,” said Emily Kilcrease, a former deputy assistant US trade representative and currently a senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security in Washington. “Otherwise the whole [thing kind of] falls apart, if it turns out they have knowledge of violations and they haven’t been able to do anything to address it.”
A Department of Commerce spokesman said the agency couldn’t comment on specifics. He said the agency’s Office of Export Enforcement recently warned overseas aviation companies about complying with US export controls involving the servicing of Russian, Belarusian and Iranian commercial aircraft.
“This action and ongoing engagement like Assistant Secretary Kendler’s visit is important to US efforts to ensure understanding of our controls, encourage partnership and compliance, and to share information,” the spokesman said.
The Biden administration imposed export controls barring Russia from using US-made aircraft last February in response to the attack on Ukraine. The export controls now bar any aircraft made in the US or those that include more than 25 percent US-controlled parts from flying into Russia or Belarus without a license issued by the Commerce Department’s Bureau of Industry and Security.