ANKARA, Turkey — Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Wednesday portrayed U.S. sanctions imposed on Turkey over its purchase of a Russian air defense system as an attempt to obstruct his country’s rising defense industry.
In a speech delivered during the inauguration of a highway in central Turkey, Erdogan also said the sanctions would increase his government’s determination to make the Turkish defense industry stronger and more independent.
The U.S. sanctions, imposed on Monday over Turkey’s procurement of Russia’s advanced S-400 system, are part of a U.S. law known as CAATSA, which are aimed at pushing back on Russian influence.
The move is the first time that the law has been used to penalize a U.S. ally.
They target Turkey’s Presidency of Defense Industries, Ismail Demir and three other senior officials. The penalties block any assets the four officials may have in U.S. jurisdictions and bar their entry into the U.S. They also include a ban on most export licenses, loans and credits to the agency.
“The real aim (of the sanctions) is to block the progress that we have made lately in the defense industry and to make us once again strictly dependent on (the United States),” Erdogan said. “If it weren’t the S-400 issue, they would have used other issues.”
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 hasten projects undertaken by our Presidency of Defense Industries. We will provide even greater support to our defense industry companies.”
The U.S. had previously kicked Turkey out of its F-35 stealth jet program, saying their use alongside the Russian technology would jeopardize the safety of the fighter jets. Washington also says the Russian system wouldn’t be interoperable with NATO systems.
Turkey had insisted that the Russian technology is no risk to NATO systems because they wouldn’t be integrated into defense strategies involving the S-400s.
Erdogan on Mondays reiterated Turkey’s position that Ankara wasn’t offered the U.S. Patriot systems, leaving it with no other option but to buy the Russian system for its national security.
The United States says talks on a potential Patriot deal failed over Turkey’s insistence on technology transfer rights that would have allowed it eventually to make the missiles themselves. This ran against U.S. manufacturers’ propriety interests in addition to any national security concerns.
Turkey took delivery of the S-400 missiles in the summer of 2019 and tested them for the first time in October.