Although already well understood by Moscow’s elite, tens of millions of Turkish citizens learned on December 14 what the American acronym CAATSA means — “Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act” (Public Law 115-44) — and how this relatively unknown US law from 2017 will soon be impacting their country.
Previously, the three titles of CAATSA had been focused on Russia, Iran, and North Korea. Under CAATSA, the Executive Branch would have 30 days to come up with a list of sanctions once legislation is implemented.
Turkey’s decision to purchase the S-400 surface-to-air missile system from Russia over strenuous objections from its NATO allies and repeated warnings from senior Trump Administration officials became the tipping point that allowed America’s anti-Russian hardliners to pool efforts in Congress with various anti-Turkish lobbying groups.
The beginning of deliveries to Turkey ultimately yielded the legislation which the Trump Administration had threatened to veto earlier this month that would formally trigger CAATSA sanctions on specified Turkish entities.
By announcing its own sanctions on December 14, the soon-to-leave-office Trump Administration deftly moved ahead of the timetable Congress would have imposed and now has increased flexibility in the sanctions program design and particularly in laying out a strategy for eventually ending them.
The sanctions applied to Turkey would be considered secondary sanctions under CAATSA because the Turkish companies opted to conduct transactions with entities previously listed on the US List of Specified Persons (LSP).
Under CAATSA, the LSP is the list of Russian entities that are primary sanctions targets due to previously identified Russian foreign policy decisions in Ukraine, cyberspace, and fabricated intrusion in the 2016 U.S. elections.
When imposing secondary CAATSA sanctions the US Federal Government seeks to precisely target the sanctions actions on the entities and persons that have participated in any transactions with the primary targets on the LSP.
Due to strong bipartisan support in both houses of Congress, legislation triggering CAATSA sanctions against Turkey was strategically attached, earlier this month, to the National Defense Authorization Act which covers the US defense budget for 2021.
President Trump has little choice but to sign that into law, even though he had threatened to veto it over the Turkey question. The S-400 system can simultaneously hit 36 targets within a radius of 400 km and up to an altitude of 27 km.
Clearly, the sanctions business in Washington is booming, whether they are driven by Congress or simply drawn up by the Trump Administration.
The sanctions include a ban on all U.S. export licenses and authorizations to SSB and an asset freeze and visa restrictions on Dr. Ismail Demir, SSB’s president, and other SSB officers.”
The USA 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 U.S. 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.
Turkey nevertheless decided to move ahead with the procurement and testing of the S-400, despite the availability of alternative, NATO-interoperable systems to meet its defense requirements.
As soon as the US sanctions were announced, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov predictably claimed the Trump Administration’s sanctions over the missile system buy from Russia were “illegitimate and showed arrogance toward international law,” Russia’s Interfax news agency reported.
As Russia is the primary target of the 2017 CAATSA legislation, Moscow fully understands the stated motivations behind ongoing US Executive Branch and congressional efforts to block Russia’s military exports globally.
Four of the Turkish parliament’s five major political parties said in a rare joint declaration that U.S. relations should be based on mutual respect and said the sanctions over the S-400 Russian missiles are “not in line with the spirit of alliance.
The Greek media picked up on the close-to-instantaneous support for Washington from senior Greek leaders, but completely failed to inform readers/listeners that the US sanctions on Turkey had nothing to do with Greece and were a consequence of Ankara’s air defense procurement decisions, not its behavior in the Eastern Mediterranean.
Nonetheless the sentiment New Europe heard from a former senior Foreign Ministry official was widely shared, noting this decision “was the best thing the US had done for Greece in over 20 years,” but somehow missing the point about problematic Turkish-Russian defense trade.
Greek media outlets also focused heavily on the largely unsubstantiated idea that Turkey’s defense sector, and especially its military equipment exports to third countries would be shut down by the sanctions.
New Europe / ABC Flash Point News 2020.