The Biden administration is getting ready to ask Congress to approve the sale of 40 F-16 fighter jets to Turkey, after weighing a Turkish request for the planes for greater than a yr, congressional sources aware of the deliberations instructed CNN.
If accredited, the sale could be among the many largest arms gross sales in years. The administration can be discussing a separate sale of 40 F-35 warplanes to Greece. There are longstanding tensions between Turkey and Greece.
Turkey was faraway from the F-35 program in 2019 in response to Ankara’s determination to buy the Russian-made S-400 missile system.
The sale to Turkey might put strain on Ankara to approve the accession of Sweden and Finland to NATO, a course of that Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been blocking since final yr.
Finland and Sweden have been formally invited to affix the alliance on the NATO summit in June final yr, however as a NATO member Turkey might block them from becoming a member of.
A Finnish official instructed CNN that Finland has “not been a part of any discussions” in the case of the American F-16s.
“Finland has carried out every part that was agreed in Madrid in June. Now we hope all NATO members assist us get our accession course of over the ending line. What involves American F-16s, we clearly haven’t been a part of any discussions. It’s an inner US matter,” the Finnish official mentioned.
It isn’t clear when the administration plans to make a proper request to Congress, as required by legislation for international navy gross sales. However on Thursday evening, the administration despatched casual notifications concerning the potential sale to the Home Overseas Affairs and Senate Overseas Relations committees, kicking off the committee evaluation course of, the sources mentioned.
The Wall Avenue Journal first reported the information.
Most administrations sometimes give Congress casual notification of proposed gross sales weeks earlier than taking formal motion. The casual notification course of is a standard apply during which the related committees get a heads up on deliberate gross sales, permitting committee management to boost considerations, give their enter, or place holds.
As soon as the administration formally notifies the total Congress of the supposed sale, lawmakers then have 30 days to dam the deal, which they’ll do by passing a joint decision of disapproval.
Senate Overseas Relations Committee Chairman Bob Menendez mentioned on Friday that he wouldn’t approve any proposed sale of F-16 plane to Turkey, persevering with his longstanding opposition to offering the weaponry to Ankara.
“As I’ve repeatedly made clear, I strongly oppose the Biden administration’s proposed sale of latest F-16 plane to Turkey,” the New Jersey Democrat mentioned. “President Erdogan continues to undermine worldwide legislation, disregard human rights and democratic norms, and interact in alarming and destabilizing conduct in Turkey and in opposition to neighboring NATO allies.”
Menendez has been extremely essential of Turkey’s concentrating on of the Kurds and threatened incursions into northern Syria. He has slammed Ankara’s closeness with Moscow and warned the Turks in opposition to buying any extra S-400 missile techniques from Russia. Moreover, Menendez has accused Turkey of repeatedly violating Greek airspace with provocative overflights within the Aegean Sea, calling it “unacceptable conduct from a NATO nation” in remarks in Athens final yr.
“Till Erdogan ceases his threats, improves his human rights report at dwelling – together with by releasing journalists and political opposition – and begins to behave like a trusted ally ought to, I cannot approve this sale,” Menendez mentioned.
On the similar time, the New Jersey Democrat mentioned he welcomed “the information of the sale of latest F-35 fighter plane to Greece.”
“This protection functionality shouldn’t be solely essential for a trusted NATO ally and enduring companion’s efforts to advance safety and stability within the Jap Mediterranean, but additionally strengthens our two nations’ talents to defend shared ideas together with our collective protection, democracy, human rights, and the rule of legislation,” he mentioned Friday.
A Nationwide Safety Council spokesperson referred CNN to the State Division for remark.
“As a matter of coverage, the Division shouldn’t be going to touch upon proposed protection gross sales or transfers till they’ve been formally notified to Congress,” State Division principal deputy spokesperson Vedant Patel mentioned at a briefing Friday.
“However what I’d say is that Turkey and Greece each are important, important, NATO Allies,” he added, noting that the US has “a historical past of supporting their safety apparatuses.”