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Sale of F-16s to Turkey Meets Resistance in Washington

A Turkish F-16, pictured in 2019
U.S. Senator Bob Menendez objects to sale of F-16s to Turkey. Credit: CeeGee / CC BY-SA 4.0 / Wikimedia Commons

The sale of F-16s to Turkey put forward to Congress by the Biden administration has met with resistance in Washington. The fighter jets are part of a billion-dollar package that would make up one of the biggest military weapons sales in years.

Many members of the American government, such as U.S. Senator Bob Menendez, are nonetheless against the move. Menendez made his objections clear on Friday, January 13th.

“As I have repeatedly made clear, I strongly oppose the Biden administration’s proposed sale of new F-16 aircrafts to Turkey,” Menendez said in an official statement following the push forward for the proposal.

Sale of F-16s to Turkey worth $20 billion

If approved, the agreement with Turkey for the single-engine multirole fighter aircraft would consist of forty new F-16s as well as seventy-nine upgrade kits to help recondition the old ones, earning the administration twenty billion dollars in the deal. Eight hundred bombs and nine hundred air-to-air missiles would also be part of the parcel.

According to the The Wall Street Journal however, the Biden administration’s intent is to aid Sweden and Finland in gaining EU membership, which cannot happen without Turkey’s approval.

“Administration officials intend to prod Turkey to sign off on Finland and Sweden’s accession to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, which Ankara has blocked over objections to their ties to Kurdish separatist groups,” it was said.

The newspaper further quoted two unnamed administration officials as having said that “Congress’s approval of the sale is contingent on Turkey’s acquiescence.”

The US State Department has said that it will begin referring to Turkey as Türkiye
The US State Department has said that it will begin referring to Turkey as Türkiye. Credit: Kafkasmurat / Wikimedia Commons CC BY-SA 4.0

The diplomatic relationship between Sweden and Turkey also worsened this week due to protests held in Stockholm by the PKK in which an effigy of Erdogan was hung outside City Hall. The discord between the two nations was already taut after Turkey raised demands for Sweden’s NATO membership.

Political peacekeeping on the part of the U.S.

If the purpose of the military package being offered to Turkey is peace-keeping, then it is in fact three-fold. The first is to improve U.S. diplomatic relations with Erdogan. Secondly, the incorporation of two countries into the EU is also fundamental. The third aim is to convince the Turkish government to impose more sanctions against Russia.

The timing of the push for approval of the sale is not to be dismissed either, as it coincides perfectly with a planned visit by Turkey’s Foreign Minister Cavusoglu to Washington next week. The meeting is said to have been arranged to address not only the weapons’ sale but also concerns of Turkey’s actions in Syria and its position on Finland and Sweden.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu at UN talks on Syria in 2016 in Geneva. Credit: UN Geneva

Congress may block the Biden administration’s efforts, however. Under U.S. law, Congress can refuse to pass a resolution of approval. In recent years, the House and Senate has never achieved the two-thirds necessary to over-rule a sitting president’s veto. What that means is Biden can over-ride any objections to the sale of the fighter jets going through.

Yet that has not hindered congressional members, such as Senator Bob Menendez, from loudly voicing their objections to the proposal put forward by President Biden’s administration.

Menendez against the maneuver

Senator Menedez is well known for his criticism of President Erdogan for several reasons. There is his dislike, for example, of Turkey’s non-observance of human rights. Likewise, his refusal to adhere to diplomatic norms is also an issue.

In addition, there is the “alarming and destabilizing behavior in Turkey and against neighboring NATO allies,” WSJ quoted the U.S. Congressman as saying. The crackdown on dissidents, including the imprisonment of the Mayor of Istanbul, has also added fuel to fire.

“Until Erdogan ceases his threats…and begins to act like a trusted ally should, I will not approve the sale,” Menendez stressed. He then stated that he welcomed the sale of the F-35 aircrafts to Greece, referring to it as a “trusted NATO ally.”

In his words, the sale “strengthens our two nations’ abilities to defend shared principles, including our collective defense, democracy, human rights, and the rule of law.”


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