ANKARA, Turkey – Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Wednesday portrayed U.S. sanctions against Turkey for buying a Russian air defense system as an attempt to stifle his country’s burgeoning defense industry.
In a speech given during the inauguration of a highway in central Turkey, Erdogan also said the sanctions would increase his government’s determination to make Turkey’s defense industry stronger and more independent.
The US sanctions imposed on Monday over Turkey’s procurement of the advanced Russian S-400 system are part of a US law called CAATSA, which aims to drive back Russian influence.
The move marks the first time the law has been used to punish an ally in the US.
They are directed against the Turkish Presidency of the Defense Industry, Ismail Demir and three other high-ranking officials. The penalties will block any assets the four US officials may have and block their entry into the US. They also include a ban on most export licenses, credits, and credits to the agency.
“The real goal (of the sanctions) is to block the advances we’ve made lately in the defense industry and once again become strictly dependent on (the United States),” Erdogan said. “If it wasn’t for the S-400 problem, they would have used other problems.”
Erdogan added: “What will happen now? We will work twice as hard as in the past to make our defense industry independent in all aspects and to accelerate defense industry projects under our presidency. We will support our defense companies even more. “
The US had previously excluded Turkey from its F-35 stealth jet program, saying that using it alongside Russian technology would endanger the safety of the fighter jets. Washington also says that the Russian system would not be interoperable with NATO systems.
Turkey had insisted that Russian technology posed no risk to NATO systems as it would not be incorporated into the S-400’s defense strategies.
Erdogan reiterated Turkey’s position on Monday that Ankara was not being offered to the US Patriot systems, leaving him no choice but to buy the Russian system for his national security.
The United States says talks on a possible Patriot deal failed because Turkey insisted on technology transfer rights that would ultimately have allowed it to manufacture the missiles itself. This went against the interests of US manufacturers in addition to national safety concerns.
Turkey took over the S-400 missiles in the summer of 2019 and tested them for the first time in October.