On Wednesday, Turkey’s business community faced mounting US pressure to sever its increasing links with Russia or risk crushing sanctions related to the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Washington is growing more concerned that Russian enterprises and the government are using Turkey to get over banking and trade restrictions put in place by the West in reaction to the six-month-old war.
At a conference earlier this month in the Black Sea resort of Sochi, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan decided to expand their economic relations.
According to official figures, Turkish exports to Russia increased in value from May to July of last year by about 50%.
The two parties have decided to switch to ruble payments for the natural gas exported by the massive, Kremlin-affiliated Gazprom as Turkey’s imports of Russian oil soar.
Wally Adeyemo, the deputy secretary of the US Treasury, travelled to Ankara and Istanbul on a rare occasion in June to voice Washington’s concerns about Russian billionaires and major corporations using Turkish firms to circumvent Western sanctions.
With excellent relations with both Moscow and Kiev, NATO member Turkey has attempted to maintain neutrality in the war and has resisted ratcheting up the number of sanctions it imposes.Adeyemo then sent a letter to the American Chamber of Commerce in Turkey and Turkey’s Tusiad business group telling them that businesses and banks risked facing their own sanctions.
Tusiad said in a statement late on Tuesday that it has forwarded the letter to Turkish officials in the finance and trade departments as well as the foreign ministry.
The Wall Street Journal broke the news of the letter’s contents this week.
Adeyemo said, “Any persons or businesses providing material support to US-designated persons are also subject to US sanctions.”
Turkish banks cannot expect to maintain their existing corresponding partnerships with large international banks, access to the US dollar and other major currencies, and create corresponding relationships with sanctioned Russian institutions.