Alper ÇALIK / email@example.com
Following the procurement of the S-400 Air Defence Missile System, the decisions announced by the United States concerning sanctions against Turkey came to the agenda of the defence and aerospace sector in December. President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Prof. Dr. İsmail Demir, President of SSB, both commented on the sanctions bringing many restrictions with a particular focus on the Presidency of Defence Industries (SSB).
The sanctions in question, announced on 14 December, were put into effect by the United States in accordance with Article 231 of the CAATSA (Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act) of 2017. According to statements made by the United States, the sanctions were imposed in response to the SSB’s procurement of the S-400 Air Defence Missile System from Rosoboronexport, Russia’s defence export organisation.
The decisions taken under CAATSA include sanctions to be imposed on the following institutions and individuals:
- Presidency of Defence Industries (SSB)
- Prof. Dr. İsmail Demir, President of the SSB
- Prof. Dr. Faruk Yiğit, Vice President of the SSB
- Serhat Gençoğlu, Head of the Air Defence and Space Department of the SSB
- Mustafa Alper Deniz, Programme Manager for SSB’s Regional Air Defence Systems Directorate.
These sanctions foresee the cessation of all kinds of trade with the relevant institutions and individuals, the freezing of any assets they may hold in the United States, and the implementation of such practices as denial of entry into the United States through the cancellation of the visas of the individuals in question.
While the US statements claim that the sanctions are not intended to hurt Turkey’s military capabilities or combat readiness, questions have been raised in the sector.
Support of SSB by President Erdoğan
On 16 December, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan made the first statement regarding the sanctions. Underscoring that Turkey will work twice as hard to make its defense industry fully independent, President Erdoğan stated: “We will expedite the projects overseen by the Presidency of Defense Industries. We will increase our support for defense industry companies. We will stand more firmly by Defense Industries President İsmail Demir and his team, as we did in the past when our ministers faced sanctions.”
A Repeat of What Happened with the 1974 Cyprus Operation
Underscoring that Turkey will work twice as hard to make its defense industry fully independent, President Erdoğan stated: “We will expedite the projects overseen by the Presidency of Defense Industries. We will increase our support for defense industry companies. We will stand more firmly by Defense Industries President İsmail Demir and his team, as we did in the past when our ministers faced sanctions.”
Reminding that Turkey came under sanctions in the aftermath of the 1974 Cyprus Peace Operation as well, President Erdoğan stated: “Following today’s sanctions decision, we will speed up our steps in every area to build a globally leading defense industry. We have attached importance to defense industry throughout our governments so as to make sure our country survives times like these. We will determinedly continue our war on terror, cross-border operations and defense industry exports, as well as the designing, software development and production of all kinds of high-tech products. Turkey is way beyond the point of getting immobilized by such sanctions.”
What is CAATSA? CAATSA (Countering America's Adversaries Through Sanctions Act), enacted by the United States in 2017, provides details of the sanctions to be applied to countries defined as adversaries by the United States. The law places special emphasis on sanctions to be applied to parties who share intelligence and defence technology data with the Russian Federation.
Sanctions Will Not Affect the Sector Aside from Four People and One Institution
After President Erdoğan’s statement, on 17 December Prof. Dr. İsmail Demir, President of SSB, answered questions about CAATSA in a live broadcast. He stated multiple times that the target of the sanctions of the USA are the SSB, himself and three of his colleagues, underlining that sectoral firms would not be affected by these sanctions.
Regarding the sanctions, President Demir said: “The statement asserts that the purpose of the sanction is not to hurt Turkey’s defence structure or industries in general. It is a legal decision, required by the law. It is directed at the SSB, myself and three of my colleagues. I was expecting such a sanction to be imposed on me personally, but frankly, I did not expect it to be extended to cover my colleagues who are working on this process. I believe they must have expanded the scope of that famous Article 12.”
When asked whether the sanctions would affect any companies in the sector, Prof. Dr. Demir said, “The latest statement indicates that this is not the case … Since it is aimed particularly at four people and one institution, no other institutions, organizations, companies or individuals will be addressee of these sanctions. Right now, there is a sanction that has been outlined, and we know exactly what this outline touches upon.”
Patriot Procurement and US Requirements
Prof. Dr. Demir reminded of the difficulties experienced in the procurement of the MIM-104 Patriot Air Defence Missile System from the United States, as a key factor in the sanctions issue: “It was not possible for us to procure the Patriot system under acceptable conditions. There is no precedence for buying something with conditions imposed by the other party. Imagine, when purchasing something you are obliged to accept all the terms put forward by the seller. Would you do such a thing? Someone gives you a price and sets certain conditions, but there are other alternatives. You say that you’d buy under these conditions rather than those ones. But he says: ‘No! You either buy this or you don’t get it at all.’ Would you consider this acceptable? Without causing offense to certain parties, I do not think that an approach in which you are told to ‘buy this, no matter the circumstances’ is acceptable.”
Prof. Dr. Demir said that they wished to carry out various technical studies examining the problems associated with the co-operation of the F-35 and S-400 systems, but the United States was adamant: “Turkey will face threats at every step that will not work for the United States, who will have the leverage to back up any such threat. What was the leverage in this case? It was F-35. Would Patriot not have served as leverage? It most certainly would have. As our president stated, had it not been the S-400, they would have found another excuse. This is a belief held and expressed at the highest levels of our state. How did we arrive at this conclusion? On the subject of F-35, when we said: ‘Let’s examine the technical arguments. Let’s talk about the problems that you mention arising from the coexistence of the F-35 and S-400 systems,’ nobody wanted to discuss them with us.”