US set to sanction Turkey over Russian defense system

The United States is poised to impose sanctions on Turkey over its acquisition last year of Russian S-400 air defense systems, five sources including two US officials told Reuters on Thursday, a move likely to worsen already problematic ties between the two NATO allies.

The long-anticipated step, which is likely to infuriate Ankara and severely complicate relations with the incoming administration of President-elect Joe Biden, could be announced any day, sources said.

The sanctions would target Turkey’s Presidency of Defense Industries and its head, Ismail Demir, sources have said. They would be damaging but narrower than the severe scenarios some analysts have outlined.

The Turkish lira weakened as much as 1.4 percent following the news. US sanctions could harm a Turkish economy struggling with a coronavirus-induced slowdown, double-digit inflation and badly depleted foreign reserves.

A senior Turkish official said sanctions would backfire and hurt ties between the two NATO members.

“Sanctions would not achieve a result but be counter-productive. They would harm relations,” the official said.

“Turkey is in favor of solving these problems with diplomacy and negotiations. We won’t accept one-sided impositions,” he said.

The decision will have repercussions far beyond Turkey, sending a message to US partners around the world who might consider buying Russian military equipment and have been warned repeatedly about US sanctions.

Turkey’s leader, President Tayyip Erdogan, had hoped to prove US threats hollow, betting the relationship he developed with US President Donald Trump would insulate Ankara from punitive US action.

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