President Joe Biden said that he hopes to get an agreement at the NATO Summit to get Turkey to approve Sweden’s membership in return for the sale of F-16s to Ankara.
Speaking to CNN on Sunday, the American President revealed Washington’s strategy at the upcoming Vilnius Summit.
“Turkey is looking to modernize F16 aircraft. And (Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos) Mitsotakis in Greece is also looking for some help. So what I’m trying to do honestly is to achieve a consortium where we strengthen NATO in terms of the military capability of both Greece and Turkey to allow Sweden to join the Alliance,” Biden said.
📺 Tonight's @POTUS interview on #CNN revealed a concerning development. Despite recognizing Greece as a vital strategic ally, Biden appears to be prioritizing appeasement with Erdogan over Sweden's NATO accession vetoed by Turkey. Mixing Turkey's F-16 upgrade with Greece's F-35… pic.twitter.com/qirVoT29M5
— Andreas Demetriou (@Europhil2000) July 9, 2023
Biden’s “Anatolian bazaar” on Turkey F-16s and Sweden’s NATO entry
Biden for the first time publicly and explicitly linked the sale of F-16s to Turkey to Ankara’s lifting of its veto on Sweden’s accession to the Alliance.
He also sought to calm fears in Greece by implying that Athens will get the fifth-generation F-35 fighting jets and thus retain a balance of power on the Aegean.
In a phone call with Erdogan earlier on Sunday, Biden expressed his desire to see Sweden join NATO “as soon as possible”.
Turkey, along with Hungary, has been a stumbling block to Sweden’s bid, which requires unanimous approval by all NATO members.
Erdogan told Biden that Stockholm has taken steps in the right direction for Ankara to ratify its bid, referring to an anti-terrorism law, but said these steps were not useful as Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) supporters continued to hold demonstrations in Sweden. The Turkish presidency’s communications directorate confirmed this on Sunday.
Turkey sought to purchase 40 aircraft and 70 kits to modernize F-16 planes in the Turkish Air Forces Command in 2021. Washington has been warm to the request, but the purchase was repeatedly blocked by a group of US senators critical of Ankara.
The sale of US. weapons to Turkey became contentious after Ankara acquired Russian-made S-400 defense missile systems. The deal triggered US sanctions and Turkey’s removal from the next-generation F-35 fighter jet program.
US Congress objects to F-16 sale to Turkey
The US Congress must approve a deal with Turkey on the sale of F-16s. Still, Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Menendez has repeatedly said he would block it if Erdogan continues his policies, including threats against Greece and Cyprus.
In a letter addressed to Secretary of State Antony Blinken over the weekend, six members of the United States House of Representatives called on the US to ensure that the new F-16 jets Turkey might receive from America will not be used for actions against Greece.
In a letter to Blinken, the six said, among other things, “Given Turkey’s history of using American F-16s for overflights in the Aegean and to challenge Greek sovereignty, we request mechanisms that provide for the pause, delay, or snapback of the transfer of American weapons to Turkey if it resumes its destabilizing actions in the Eastern Mediterranean that threaten or undermine US national security interests or NATO security architecture.”
The letter is signed by Representatives Chris Pappas, Gus Bilirakis, Dina Titus, Nicole Malliotakis, Farank Pallone, Jr. and John Sarbanes.