US Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin has warned Turkey that Washington is considering imposing sanctions on the country over Ankara’s purchase of the S-400 missile defense system from Russia, Reuters reported Monday.
Speaking with journalists, Mnuchin said that, while no decision has yet been made, the Trump administration is “looking at” penalizing its NATO ally over that country’s importation of the missile batteries, whose presence in Turkey the US believes would compromise its F-35 stealth aircraft program and aid Russian intelligence.
“We’re looking at that, I’m not going to make any comments on any specific decisions, but we are looking at it,” he said.
In a major break with a longtime ally, US President Donald Trump this July announced that Ankara was being kicked out of the F-35 program for purchasing the Russian-made system. Turkey took delivery of the first part of the Russian system that month,, despite strong objections from the United States.
Turkey — which had ordered more than 100 of the F-35s for some $1.4 billion — has repeatedly dismissed claims the Russian system would be a danger to the American warplanes, and urged Washington to reverse its decision.
The Western defense alliance NATO, which counts Turkey as one of its members, has also expressed concern about the purchase.
But Turkey has refused to bow to US and NATO pressure, saying its purchase of the Russian-made system is a matter of national sovereignty. Last month, Israel’s Channel 12 news reported that Jerusalem had worked behind the scenes to ensure the US dropped Turkey from its F-35 program as part of its efforts to preserve its military qualitative edge in the region.
The US has warned of possible sanctions against Turkey on several occasions. Bloomberg reported in July that the US was close to imposing sanctions, citing officials familiar with the administration’s deliberations.