U.S. nears sale of fighter jets to Turkey and Greece; Congressional approval anticipated
The Biden administration on Friday moved to advance the $23 billion sale of F-16 fighter jets to Turkey, signaling a major step in a process that has strained U.S.-Ankara relations. The State Department notified Congress of its plan to sell 40 Lockheed Martin F-16s and about 80 modernization kits to Turkey. This development followed Turkey's ratification of Sweden's NATO membership, a pivotal factor in the jet sale negotiations.
Simultaneously, the U.S. progressed with an $8.6 billion deal to sell 20 Lockheed F-35 stealth fighter jets to Greece. This move aims to balance the interests of two NATO allies historically at odds.
Turkey's request for the jets dates back to October 2021. However, Ankara's hesitation in ratifying Sweden's NATO membership had previously impeded congressional approval for the sale.
This week, following a 20-month delay, the Turkish parliament ratified Sweden's NATO membership. Subsequently, President Biden urged key congressional committees to expedite approval of the F-16 sale.
The State Department's notification came shortly after Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan approved Sweden's ratification and the related documents reached Washington.
Democratic Senator Ben Cardin, chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, emphasized that his approval of Turkey's F-16 purchase was linked to Sweden's NATO bid. "This was not a decision made lightly," Cardin said. He outlined conditions for Turkey: improving human rights, cooperating against Russia’s actions in Ukraine, and aiding in de-escalating Middle East tensions.
Cardin expressed optimism about the Biden administration's talks with Turkey regarding these issues. The Senate Foreign Relations and House Foreign Affairs committees scrutinize major foreign arms sales, often querying human rights and diplomatic implications.
Following the State Department's formal notification, Congress has a 15-day window to object to the sale, after which it becomes final. Despite some congressional criticism of Turkey, U.S. officials anticipate both sales will proceed unimpeded.