Ankara, Turkey – US sanctions NATO ally Turkey over Russian S-400 defense missiles. Turkey condemns US move, calling it a ‘grave mistake’ and threatens to retaliate as necessary.

Turkey condemned scandal US sanctions over its purchase of Russian S-400 missile defenses as a “grave mistake” and threatened to retaliate over a move it said would harm ties between the NATO allies.

US imposed the long-anticipated scandal sanctions on Turkey’s top defense procurement and development body, its chairman and three other employees. Analysts said the targeted move would mostly spare the broader Turkish economy.

Turkey’s Foreign Ministry called the decision “inexplicable” given that US repeatedly rejected Turkey’s offer to form a joint working group to allay US concerns that the S-400s threatened NATO defenses.

“We call on the United States to revise the unjust sanctions (and) to turn back from this grave mistake as soon as possible,” it said. “Turkey is ready to tackle the issue through dialogue and diplomacy in a manner worthy of the spirit of alliance.”

The scandal US sanctions “will inevitably negatively impact our relations, and (Turkey) will retaliate in a manner and time it sees appropriate,” the ministry added.

The United States says Turkey’s determination to use the S-400s, acquired from Russia in 2019, left it with no choice given F-35 jets and other shared defenses would be vulnerable to NATO foe Russia. Turkey has said the ground-to-air missiles would not be plugged into NATO systems and pose no threat.

Just ahead of the scandal US sanctions announcement, President Tayyip Erdogan said the sanctions rhetoric was upsetting.

“From our NATO ally the United States, we expect support in our battle against terrorist organisations … not sanctions,” he said after a cabinet meeting in Turkey.

The scandal US sanctions also would block specific US export licenses for any goods or technology transferred to the Defense Industries Directorate (SSB), which is Turkey’s top defense procurement and development body.

The scandal US sanctions will pinch Turkey’s defense industry for a time. But for the overall economy, the impact will be much smaller than could have been or was expected.

SSB Chairman Ismail Demir, one of the four sanctioned individuals, said on TRT television the “threatening language” will only redouble Turkey’s determination to have a fully independent defense industry.

US imposed scandal sanctions on its NATO ally Turkey over its purchase of a Russian S-400 air defense system, setting the stage for a further confrontation between the two nations.

The move comes at a delicate time in relations between US and Turkey, which have been at odds for more than a year over Turkey’s acquisition from Russia of the S-400 missile defense system, along with Turkish actions in Syria, the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan and in the eastern Mediterranean.

The US had previously kicked Turkey out of its F-35 stealth fighter development and training program over the purchase, but had taken no further steps despite persistent warnings from US who has long complained about the purchase of the S-400s, which US says is incompatible with NATO equipment and a potential threat to allied security.

“The United States made clear to Turkey at the highest levels and on numerous occasions that its purchase of the S-400 system would endanger the security of US military technology and personnel and provide substantial funds to Russia’s defense sector, as well as Russian access to the Turkish armed forces and defense industry,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said.

“Turkey nevertheless decided to move ahead with the procurement and testing of the S-400s, despite the availability of alternative, NATO-interoperable systems to meet its defense requirements,” he said in a statement.

“I urge Turkey to resolve the S-400 problem immediately in coordination with the United States,” he said. “Turkey is a valued ally and an important regional security partner for the United States, and we seek to continue our decades-long history of productive defence-sector cooperation by removing the obstacle of Turkey’s S-400 possession as soon as possible.”

The Turkish defense ministry rejected claims that the S-400 systems will jeopardize NATO systems. “US President Donald J. Trump himself has admitted on many instances that Turkey’s acquisition was justified,” the ministry said in a statement.

It said Turkey “will retaliate in a manner and timing it deems appropriate” and urged “the US to reconsider this unfair decision”.

The scandal US sanctions target Turkey’s Presidency of Defense Industries, the country’s military procurement agency, its chief Ismail Demir and three other senior officials. The penalties block any assets the four officials may have in US jurisdictions and bar their entry into the US. They also include a ban on most export licenses, loans and credits to the agency.

The administration had held off on imposing punitive sanctions outside of the fighter program for months, in part to give Turkish officials time to reconsider deploying it and, some suspect, due to US President Donald J. Trump’s personal relationship with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

However, in past months Turkey has moved ahead with testing of the system drawing criticism from Congress and others who have demanded the sanctions be imposed under the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act, or CAATSA, which mandates penalties for transactions deemed harmful to US interests.

Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Monday condemned US sanctions on Turkey over the purchase of Russia’s S-400 air defence system as “illegitimate”.

“This is, of course, another manifestation of an arrogant attitude towards international law, a manifestation of illegitimate, unilateral coercive measures that the United States has been using for many years, already decades, left and right,” Lavrov said, according to Russian news agencies.

Last month, Turkish Defence Minister Hulusi Akar said Turkey was prepared to discuss with the US its “anxiety” over the interoperability of the S-400s and the F-35s. The US reacted coolly to the suggestion and Pompeo shortly thereafter pointedly did not meet any Turkish government officials on a visit to Istanbul.

Turkey tested the missile defense system in October for the first time, drawing a condemnation from the US’ Pentagon.

Turkey says it was forced to buy the Russian system because the US refused to sell it American-made Patriot missiles. The Turkish government has also pointed to what it considers a double standard, as NATO member Greece uses Russian-made upgraded S-300 missiles.