ANKARA: President Joe Biden announced on Thursday the imposition of sanctions on five Turkish companies and a Turkish national.
The move comes amid accusations they helped Russia in evading Western sanctions and provided support to Moscow in its ongoing war in Ukraine.
It is part of a broader set of sanctions targeting over 150 Russian-supporting entities and individuals, hindering the Russian military as well as the country’s industrial base, construction sector, financial sector, oil and gas industry, technology supply and maritime sector.
The designations specifically target shipping and trade entities alleged to have played a role in the repair of sanctioned vessels associated with Russia’s Defense Ministry and in facilitating the transfer of dual-use goods.
Among the sanctioned firms, construction and foreign trade company Margiana Insaat Dis Ticaret faces allegations of facilitating covert deliveries to sanctioned Russian entities entrenched in the military drone production supply chain. Informatics and trade company Demirci Bilisim Ticaret Sanayi finds itself under scrutiny for purportedly dispatching sensors and measuring tools to Russia.
The direction of the US-Turkiye relationship this year will be determined by the developments regarding F-16 sales by the US to Ankara and Turkish ratification of Sweden’s NATO bid.
Ozgur Unluhisarcikli, Analyst
Also on the list is Denkar Ship Construction, a company embroiled in allegations of providing repair services to vessels linked to the Russian Defense Ministry. Similarly, shipyard agency ID Ship Agency and its owner, Ilker Dogruyol, have been sanctioned for their suspected involvement in similar activities.
CTL Ltd. finds itself accused of shipping US and European-origin electronic components to companies in Russia.
The Turkish government did not release any official statement about the designations.
This decision, however, came amid a sensitive juncture in US-Turkiye relations, with Washington closely watching Ankara’s potential ratification of Sweden’s NATO membership application when the Turkish parliament reconvenes in early October.
At the July NATO summit in Lithuania, Ankara agreed to forward Sweden’s bid to join NATO for a ratification vote, while Turkiye made it clear that it was waiting for Stockholm to fulfil its commitments about counterterrorism efforts.
US State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller said that the sanctions imposed on Thursday would not derail Sweden’s accession bid to join NATO.
“We continue to work with them to communicate that NATO accession is important for Sweden, it should happen as soon as possible, and we take President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s assurances that it will happen at great value,” he said.
The US and its allies imposed extensive sanctions on Russia after its February 2022 invasion of Ukraine, but supply channels from Black Sea neighbor Turkiye and other trading hubs have remained open, prompting Washington to frequently issue warnings about the export of chemicals, microchips and other products that can be used in Moscow’s war effort.
Rich Outzen, senior fellow at the Atlantic Council and Jamestown Foundation, said: “These individual/entity sanctions differ greatly from state sanctions on state targets; they are less about geopolitics or bilateral relations and more about ‘grey’ business actions.
“Clearly no government likes to have businesses run by its nationals listed, but it is an order of magnitude below sanctioning state entities or coercive diplomacy per se,” he told Arab News.
Outzen expects muted reaction from Ankara given the shared interest in not helping Russia, with Turkiye strongly supporting Ukraine’s defense.
This is not closely connected to the dealing over Swedish NATO accession or the transfer of US F-16 jets to Turkiye, he said.
Ankara “is taking a number of steps to seek convergence with the West, while neither alienating nor strengthening Russia. That particular balancing act does not generally change in response to micro-events like a commercial sanction,” Outzen said.
“Failure of the F-16 fighter jets deal and/or Sweden’s accession process are more dangerous in that regard,” he added.
A concerted effort to discourage the Turkish private sector from assisting Russia in circumventing US sanctions has been also underway since more than a year.
This has included the visits of several high-level US officials, including Deputy Treasury Secretary Wally Adeyemo, to Turkiye in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, forming part of a pressure campaign to deter such activities.
For Ozgur Unluhisarcikli, Ankara office director of the German Marshall Fund of the United States, the sanctions in question concern only a limited number of Turkish companies and nationals helping Russia circumvent sanctions on the import of dual-use products particularly from Europe, and as such they have neither political implications nor economic consequences for Turkiye.
“There is a tacit understanding between the US and Turkiye that such trade should be prevented,” he told Arab News.
According to Unluhisarcikli, the direction of the US-Turkiye relationship this year will be determined by the developments regarding F-16 sales by the US to Ankara and Turkish ratification of Sweden’s NATO bid.
Erdogan and Biden had a short meeting on the sidelines of the G20 Summit in India where they reportedly talked about F-16s.
Ankara requested the fighter jets and their modernization kits back in October 2021, but the $6 billion deal is still pending the approval of Congress.