Madrid, Wednesday, 29 June 2022
The United States moved closer to fulfilling Turkey's long-standing request on Wednesday by indicating a fresh willingness to supply upgraded F-16 fighter fighters to that country. This came one day after Turkey decided not to oppose Finland and Sweden's ambitions to join NATO.
Only a few hours earlier, senior American officials had claimed that President Biden had not struck a deal with Turkey in exchange for its backing of NATO expansion. Late on Tuesday, a senior administration official told reporters that Turkey had not requested the F-16s during the talks.
When questioned by a reporter on Wednesday about the administration's backing of Turkey's desire for a more modern air force, a top defence official was direct, albeit vague.
According to assistant defence secretary Celeste Wallander, "strong Turkish defence capabilities contribute to robust NATO defensive capabilities." "The U.S. Department of Defence fully supports Turkey's F-16 fleet modernization plans."
The United States "supports Turkey's modernisation of its fighter fleet because that is a contribution to NATO security, and consequently American security," she said, adding that efforts to assist Turkey buy the cutting-edge aircraft "need to be worked through our contracting processes."
On Wednesday in the late afternoon, Mr. Biden will speak with Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey. The presidents will talk about a wide variety of issues pertaining to the shared interests of the two nations, according to officials. However, Ms. Wallander's remarks gave the impression that the Turkish request for F-16s was probably a major priority.
Uncertainty surrounds the timing of any potential fighter jet agreement between the US and Turkey, and Congressional approval is almost certainly required.
Turkey's bilateral relations have been strained for some years, and Turkey has also lost support in Congress. In addition to becoming increasingly autocratic, erratic, and challenging as an ally over time, Mr. Erdogan has also increased domestic repression of political opponents and independent journalism. In order to strike a balance with Russia, Mr. Erdogan decided to purchase the S-400, a formidable missile defence system, over resistance from the US and NATO.
In retaliation, the United States cut off Turkey's participation in the F-35, the newest and most technologically advanced American fighter jet. Since then, Turkey has requested to purchase 80 additional F-16 modification kits in addition to 40 older aircraft, the F-16.
(Report by: The Decision Maker – International Relations editors)