The Biden administration on Thursday imposed sanctions against five Turkey-based entities and a Turkish national for facilitating sanctions evasion by Russian companies supporting Russia’s military or defense-industrial base. The sanctions underscore that despite repeated U.S. warnings, Turkey continues to help fuel Russia’s war machine.
The Treasury and State departments imposed these sanctions as part of wide-ranging designation packages targeting Russia’s defense-industrial base, illicit procurement networks, and various other companies and elites. As Treasury noted, “Russia continues to rely on third-country entities to keep importing much-needed dual-use goods to enable its unprovoked war of aggression on Ukraine.” Thursday’s sanctions aimed to disrupt some of Russia’s circumvention networks.
Treasury designated two Turkey-based entities: Margiana Insaat Dis Ticaret Limited Sirketi and Demirci Bilisim Ticaret Sanayi Limited Sirketi. According to Treasury, Margiana “has made hundreds of shipments” to a pair of previously sanctioned Russia-based companies. The shipments included items from a Commerce Department list of high-priority components used in Russian drones, missiles, and other weapon systems.
As for Demirci, Treasury said the company “has sent sensors and measuring tools into Russia.” Demirci was founded in March 2022, shortly after Moscow’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine.
For its part, the State Department sanctioned a third Turkey-based entity, CTL Dis Ticaret Limited Sirketi. The company serves as an “intermediary that ships … high priority electronic components of U.S.- and European-origin to affiliate companies located in Russia,” the department alleged.
State also designated Denkar Ship Construction Incorporated Company and ID Ship Agency Trade Limited Company along with the latter’s Turkish owner. According to State, those two Turkish entities provided or arranged ship-repair services for vessels controlled by U.S.-sanctioned Russian shipping companies that transport cargo for the Russian military. For example, one of the vessels reportedly made a maintenance stop earlier this year at Turkey’s Tuzla port, where Denkar is based. That vessel has previously delivered Russian military equipment to Syria and has made multiple trips to and from occupied Crimea in recent months.
Following Moscow’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, the United States and its Western allies expanded their sanctions and export controls targeting Russia’s defense-industrial base. Ankara, however, declined to join in. Turkey subsequently emerged as a key jurisdiction for Russian evasion of Western restrictions, helping fuel Moscow’s war machine even as Ankara provides military and political support for Ukraine.
But Thursday’s sanctions suggest Washington is unsatisfied with Ankara’s efforts to date. Treasury’s press release hinted at the administration’s frustration, saying department officials had “repeatedly raised the issue of the shipment or transshipment of dual-use goods to Russia with the Government of Türkiye and the Turkish private sector.”
So far, the Biden administration has designated only a handful of Turkish entities that support Russian evasion. That should change. The United States and its allies should ramp up their sanctions designations against entities in Turkey and elsewhere that support Russia’s defense-industrial base. Washington should also consider establishing a statutory authority to require enhanced due diligence for exports of sensitive goods to countries designated as “jurisdictions of primary diversion concern.”
Congress also has the option of conditioning its approval of Turkey’s request for F-16 fighter jets on Ankara’s cooperation in combat Russian evasion. The administration could attach a similar condition to any financial assistance for Turkey’s fragile economy.
Every shipment of microchips that Russia sources through Turkey could potentially enable another missile to strike a Ukrainian city. Ankara cannot be allowed to remain neutral in this dimension of the conflict.
John Hardie is deputy director of the Russia Program at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD), where Sinan Ciddi is a non-resident senior fellow with FDD’s Turkey Program. They both contribute to FDD’s Center on Economic and Financial Power and Center on Military and Political Power. For more analysis from the authors and FDD, please subscribe HERE. Follow John and Sinan on X @JohnH105 and @SinanCiddi. Follow FDD on Twitter @FDD and @FDD_CEFP and @FDD_CMPP. FDD is a Washington, DC-based, nonpartisan research institute focused on national security and foreign policy.