Photo Credit: RIA Novosti via Wikimedia
S-400 surface-to-air missile systems on parade in Moscow, 2010.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Thursday called Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu to discuss the December 14 imposition of sanctions by the United States on its NATO Ally Turkey in retaliation for its purchase of the Russian-made S-400 missile defense system.

The Turkish FM implied this week that President-elect Joe Biden would be a better negotiations partner with Turkey, since he “knows Turkey’s expectations,” and “because the issues that negatively affect our relations did not start during the Trump period. These issues surfaced during the Barack Obama term.”


Last year, though, Biden called Turkish president Erdogan an autocrat and pledged support to his opposition inside Turkey. Considering Ankara’s military cooperation with Russia, President Biden is not likely to go gentle on Turkey, which seems to strike brawls with all its neighbors, most notably NATO member Greece.

Pompeo cited the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) as the basis for the sanctions. It should be noted that this is the first time this law was used against an allied country. CAATSA originally imposed sanctions on Iran, North Korea, and Russia. It was signed on August 2, 2017, by President Donald Trump, who nevertheless stated it was “seriously flawed.”

The S-400 is an advanced long-range anti-aircraft missile system, designed to destroy aircraft, and cruise and ballistic missiles, including medium-range ones, and can also be used against ground objectives. The S-400 system can engage targets at a distance of 250 miles and an altitude of up to 22 miles.

Pompeo made clear to Cavusoglu that Turkey’s purchase of the S-400 system endangers the security of US personnel and military technology and allows Russian access to the Turkish armed forces and defense industry. Pompeo stressed that the goal of the sanctions is to prevent Russia from receiving substantial revenue, access, and influence, and they are not intended to undermine the military capabilities or combat readiness of Turkey.

Secretary Pompeo also urged Turkey to resolve the S-400 issue “in a manner consistent with our decades-long history of defense-sector cooperation and to re-commit itself to its NATO obligations to purchase NATO-interoperable weaponry.”

Minister Cavusoglu told Turkish news broadcaster 24 TV that relations between the two countries could normalize if the US met “Turkey’s expectations.” He stressed that the US decision to impose sanctions on Turkey was a wrong step both legally and politically. Noting that Turkey decided to procure the S-400 defense system before the US passed CAATSA, the FM said it was also extremely wrong to impose sanctions on an ally.

US officials opposed the deployment of the S-400 missile system, arguing that they were incompatible with the NATO systems and would expose the stealth F-35 jets to Russian subterfuge. The US then went ahead and canceled Turkey’s purchase of the F-35s practically on the eve of their delivery date. Turkish pilots who had been training on the F-35 in USAF bases were sent home.

Moscow signed a contract with Ankara on the delivery of the S-400 systems in 2017, making Turkey the first NATO member country to purchase these systems from Russia. On December 7, the head of the Rostec State Corporation Sergei Chemezov said the first S-400 contract with Turkey had been fully executed, all components of the systems had been delivered to Turkey, and Russia had received full payment.


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