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US Fears Pressure Might Push Turkey Towards Russia, Will Still Sanction It Over S-400s – Report

By Tim Korso

The Trump administration is trying to find a new approach to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, as it believes that further pressure on him and his country over the purchase of Russian defence systems and Turkey’s operation in Syria could push Ankara to develop closer ties with Russia, The Wall Street Journal reported, citing sources in the US.

Despite this understanding, however, the US still intends to impose economic sanctions against Turkey, the sources told the media outlet, explaining that President Donald Trump would have to “contend with angry US lawmakers”, who recently passed bills that envisage these economic measures.

“We don’t want the sanctions [on Turkey], but they will happen […] It will hurt Turkey”, an anonymous senior US official told the media outlet.

The report comes as the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee passed a bill urging the State Department to introduce sanctions against Turkey, while the US Congress has approved the defence spending bill for 2020, further prolonging the ban on F-35 shipments to Ankara.

These measures were mostly tied to Turkey purchasing S-400 air defence systems from Russia, despite Washington’s warnings against doing so. The US claims that the systems are incompatible with the NATO defence grid and pose a threat to the fifth-generation F-35 fighter jet’s secrets.

Ankara chose the S-400s after the US stalled the approval process for the sale of its Patriot systems, calling the Russian weapon essential to the country’s national security and refusing to ditch it at Washington’s behest. The US and Turkish presidents set up a joint working group to find a solution to the problem, but so far both sides are sticking to their rhetoric.