What happened: In a blistering statement Tuesday, Democratic members of the Hellenic Caucus said that Turkey, under President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, is undeserving of the advanced fighter jets.
Their opposition comes after Biden said last week at the NATO Summit that he supports selling the jets to Turkey. The day before, Turkey had dropped its opposition to allowing Finland and Sweden to join NATO, but the White House has denied any connection between Biden’s remarks and Turkey’s move.
What they’re saying: The lawmakers noted that Turkey is currently under U.S. sanctions for its purchases of the Russian-made S-400 missile defense system, and said the Biden administration hasn’t been forthcoming on how it would “mitigate the risks of co-locating” the F-16 and a Russian-made weapon system.
“While Turkey’s relenting on their opposition to Sweden and Finland joining NATO is a welcome development, there are still too many outstanding issues to move forward with the sale of F-16s to Erdoğan’s government,” the Democratic lawmakers wrote. “Over the last decade, Turkey has not been a productive member of NATO nor a reliable ally to the U.S.”
The statement was signed by Democratic Reps. Dina Titus of Nevada, Chris Pappas of New Hampshire, Charlie Crist of Florida, Carolyn Maloney of New York, Frank Pallone of New Jersey and John Sarbanes of Maryland.
They also noted that Turkey has violated Greece’s airspace more than 2,300 times since the beginning of this year, blasting Ankara for its “antagonistic actions in the Aegean Sea.” And they warned against a possible Turkish re-invasion of Syria to target Kurdish allies of the U.S.
“Until the administration can provide suitable answers on how they intended to mitigate the above-listed concerns, we will continue to object to this weapons transfer and do everything we can to ensure that these F-16s are not delivered to the Turkish government,” the Democrats concluded.
Context: These lawmakers aren’t the only ones who oppose the sale. Sens. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) and Jim Risch (R-Idaho), the chair and ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, respectively, are in the same camp. And their signoff is required in order for the sale to go through.
We’ll see if the Biden administration will start doing some arm-twisting on the Hill.