US State Department Spokesperson Matthew Miller has said the United States is “not at all” concerned that sanctioning five Turkey-based firms for helping Russia evade sanctions and supporting Moscow in its war against Ukraine might derail the process for Ankara to ratify Sweden’s NATO membership.
Miller announced during a press briefing on Thursday that the US imposed sweeping sanctions on more than 150 individuals and entities in connection with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, saying the move targeted those engaged in sanctions evasion and those complicit in furthering Russia’s ability to wage its war against Ukraine.
When asked if they are worried that imposing sanctions on five entities in the Turkish private sector among nearly 150 others would negatively affect NATO ally Turkey’s ratification of Sweden’s NATO membership, the spokesperson said they were “not at all” worried about such a potential development.
“We have a constructive, warm relationship with the Turkish Government. They are an important ally of ours. … We continue to work with them to communicate that NATO accession is important for Sweden and should happen as soon as possible,” Miller said.
He added that the US government takes Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s assurances that the ratification will happen “at great value” and doesn’t see the two issues as being in any way connected.
Sanctions imposed on Turkish entities come at a delicate moment for US-Turkey relations, with Washington hoping Ankara will ratify NATO membership for Sweden when the Turkish parliament reconvenes in early October.
The US and its allies imposed extensive sanctions on Russia after its invasion of Ukraine, but supply channels from Black Sea neighbor Turkey and other trading hubs have remained open, prompting Washington to issue repeated warnings about the export of chemicals, microchips and other products that can be used in Moscow’s war effort.
NATO member Turkey has sought to maintain good relations with both Moscow and Kyiv amid the war. It opposes the sanctions targeting Russia on principle but has said they will not be circumvented in Turkey and that no shipped products can be used by Russia’s military.
Ties with the US have been strained over Turkey’s reluctance to support the bids of Sweden and Finland to join NATO after Russia invaded Ukraine. While Finnish membership was sealed in April, Sweden’s application remains held up by Turkey and Hungary.
Ankara has accused Sweden of harboring militants hostile to the Turkish state, mainly members of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), deemed a terrorist organization by Turkey and much of the international community.
After months of objections, President Erdoğan agreed at a NATO summit in July to forward Sweden’s NATO bid to the Turkish parliament for ratification, but the exact timing of the approval remains unclear.
The United States has repeatedly said Sweden has done enough to alleviate Turkey’s concerns and that its membership should be approved now.