US says F-16 sale to Turkey serves NATO interests in letter to Congress
The United States administration has underlined in a letter to the Congress that the potential sale of F-16 fighter jets to Turkey would serve both U.S. and NATO security interests, particularly in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
“The Administration believes that there are nonetheless compelling long-term NATO alliance unity and capability interests, as well as U.S. national security, economic and commercial interests that are supported by appropriate U.S. defense trade ties with Turkey,” read a letter sent by Naz Durakoglu, the State Department’s top official for legislative affairs to Congressman Frank Pallone, chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.
According to the reports, the letter was sent to Pallone on March 17 as a reply to a correspondence by Pallone’s office on Febr. 4 that urged the Biden administration not to supply Turkey with the F-16 jets and modernization kits due to its deployment of S-400s and human rights violations.
Turkey had demanded to purchase 40 new F-16 jet fighters and around 80 modernization kits in a bid to keep its air fleet intact after it was excluded from the joint F-35 fifth-generation fighter jet program due to its deployment of Russian S-400 air defense systems.
More than 40 congressmen from both Republican and Democratic parties had opposed this sale through a letter conveyed to the White House in late 2021. The administration has already expressed its will to sell these fighter jets but recalled the congressional opposition as a major hurdle before this transaction.
The letter sent by Durakoğlu to Pallone cites Turkey’s removal from the F-35 program as a “significant price paid” for the S-400 purchase, stressing, “The proposed sale will require a congressional notification if the Department of State were to approve it. We affirm our commitment to established defense trade authorization procedures, including congressional oversight,”
She also recalled Turkey’s active contributions to NATO, stressing:
“Turkey is a longstanding NATO ally with the second-largest army in the alliance. It’s an active contributor to NATO missions, including most recently in Eastern Europe, the Black Sea, the Balkans and Afghanistan. Turkey’s support for Ukraine’s territorial integrity and cooperative defense relations are an important deterrent to malign influence in the region.”
The letter acknowledges that there are major problems concerning the Turkish-American relationship as it underlined, “We will continue to stress to Ankara the importance of maintaining interoperability with the alliance and utilizing its military capabilities to bolster NATO efforts and advance our mutual goals, while continuing to hold [President Recep Tayyip] Erdoğan government accountable for actions contrary to our interests.”
It also recalls that the U.S. continues to urge Turkey not to retain the S-400 systems.