By Michael Crowley and Edward Wong
WASHINGTON (New York Times) — The Biden administration has informed Congress that it wants to discuss proposed major arms sales for Turkey and Greece, according to two US officials, but it already faces resistance on Capitol Hill to Ankara’s request for new and upgraded F-16 fighter jets.
The $20-billion arms package for Turkey would include 40 new F-16 fighter jets and 79 upgrade kits to refurbish the country’s existing fleet of aging F-16s. Greece is asking to buy at least 30 F-35 fighter jets, the most modern planes in the US arsenal.
The Greek request is uncontroversial and very likely to be approved. But while Turkey is a NATO ally of more than 70 years, that package faces skepticism from members of Congress who are exasperated with the country’s autocratic president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, including over his violation of civil liberties and his refusal so far to approve NATO membership for Sweden and Finland. The two long-neutral Nordic countries applied to join the military alliance after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
After the move toward congressional approval was reported by The Wall Street Journal on Friday, January 13, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Bob Menendez, Democrat of New Jersey and a longtime critic of Erdogan, issued a stinging statement.
While saying he welcomed selling the next-generation F-35s to Greece, Menendez — whose position gives him the power to block such sales in his committee — said he “strongly” opposed selling “new F-16 aircraft to Turkey.”