U.S. Set to Finally Sanction Turkey for Buying Russian Arms

U.S. Set to Finally Sanction Turkey for Buying Russian Arms

Trump has long refused to penalize Ankara for acquiring advanced Russian air defense systems, but Congress is forcing his hand.

The Trump administration is set to impose sanctions against Turkey for acquiring a Russian air defense system more than a year ago, just as Congress readies a vote that would force the administration to impose those penalties that were long mandated by law. 

Capitol Hill has long pushed for U.S. President Donald Trump to impose the mandatory sanctions after Turkey took delivery of the $2.5 billion Russian S-400 air defense system in July 2019. The United States quickly responded by kicking Turkey out of the F-35 fighter jet program, but the Trump administration stalled on imposing sanctions, while Trump allies such as Sen. Lindsey Graham called on the NATO ally not to activate the system. The Pentagon has long warned that the S-400 would jeopardize the F-35 by using its radar to passively scan the jet, allowing the Russian system to more easily identify and shoot it down in combat. 

The law—which calls on the U.S. president to impose a basket of five or more sanctions—gives Trump flexibility on how hard to crack down on Turkey for the sale, including blocking exports, barring certain officials from making U.S. transactions, or stopping U.S. banks or international financial institutions from making loans, a move that could cause significant damage to the Turkish economy.