ANKARA – Following the latest US State Department warning about sanctions compliance, Turkiye has vowed to prohibit the re-export of Western goods to Russia.

However, the NATO member will continue to export domestic products to Russia despite holding general and parliamentary elections on May 14.

Turkey-Russia relations are once again in the forefront, with Ankara’s apparent neutrality in the Russia-Ukraine dispute causing friction with the US.

According to Reuters, the head of the US State Department’s Office of Sanctions Coordination, James O’Brien, stated that Turkish authorities had been “very clear” about the ban on re-exporting sanctioned Western goods to Russia.

The Istanbul Ferrous and Nonferrous Metals Exporters Association announced on March 20 that the Turkish government had furnished enterprises with a list of foreign commodities that could not be shipped to Russia.

The declaration came shortly after US Secretary of State Antony Blinken visited Ankara.

Similarly, Ankara is said to have given the European Commission verbal assurances that sanctioned products will not be delivered to Russia beginning March 1.

This ban, however, does not apply to Turkiye-made goods that contain components from other countries and can still be shipped to Russia without restrictions.

Washington is still wary and will closely scrutinize Turkish trade figures with Russia in March and April.

During a news conference in December, O’Brien lectured Ankara about its sanctions compliance, threatening Turkiye with additional consequences if it did not comply.

Meanwhile, several senior US officials have visited Turkiye since Ukraine’s incursion, requesting that the Turkish business sector, particularly banks, comply with US sanctions against Russia.

Turkiye became an important supply route for Russia after numerous Western countries imposed severe sanctions to prevent the Russian army from reusing imported components in weapons systems, such as microchips and chemicals.

Turkiye has maintained trading relations with Russia despite Western sanctions, according to Soner Cagaptay, director of the Turkish program at the Washington Institute.

“On an annual basis, all trade indicators more than doubled.” “It’s part of Ankara’s pro-Ukraine neutrality policy,” he explained to Arab News.

According to the director, Turkiye has also militarily backed Ukraine in an effort to balance the Black Sea security situation.

“Ankara has also maintained economic ties with Russia.” It profited from investment flows, increased trade from Russia, and encouraged Russian oligarchs to invest in Turkiye and buy real estate,” he noted.

“The US government is pushing back against these efforts, and is going through compliance channels, warning businesses not to trade with Russia or use Russian credit cards.” And it’s working, as Turkish enterprises are joining in,” Cagaptay remarked.

Since the invasion of Ukraine, thousands of wealthy Russians have relocated to Turkiye, buying property, bringing cash savings, creating hundreds of enterprises to avoid sanctions, and aiming to make the country a financial haven for Russians. Turkiye remains one of Russia’s most important trading partners.

Cagaptay stated that if Turkiye’s administration remains in power after the May 14 elections, Ankara will continue to back Kyiv militarily, maintain economic connections with Moscow, and comply with Western sanctions to some extent.

“It is unlikely that Turkiye will completely disengage from Russia economically in the event of an opposition victory because they have deep ties with Russia in various sectors ranging from energy to food and tourism,” he added.

“If the opposition wins, they will support Ukraine more politically, with an eye toward gradually disengaging from some economic ties with Russia,” Cagaptay predicted.

As the United States prepares for its 2024 election, experts predict that US President Joe Biden would impose further sanctions on Russia and expect more from Turkiye in addition to commercial compliance channels.

Cagaptay stated that the US will use government-to-government relations to push Ankara further away from Russia.

Meanwhile, on April 7, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan met Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in Turkiye.

The visit coincided with a phone call between Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar and US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin to discuss NATO expansion with Finland as well as Turkey’s request for new F-16 planes and modification kits from the US.

The German Marshall Fund of the United States’ Ankara office director, Ozgur Unluhisarcikli, stated that there is a distinction between Turkiye evading sanctions against Russia and assisting Russia’s circumvention of sanctions through the re-export of sanctioned products from Europe.

According to the most recent US State Department statement, “it is the latter that Turkiye will limit, not its usual trade with Russia,” he told Arab News.

According to Unluhisarcikli, the US will give special attention to dual-use devices that may be employed for both civilian and military objectives.

“While Russia will be disappointed by Turkiye’s decision, it is unlikely to react strongly because it is in no position to lose a country like Turkiye completely,” he said.




Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here