U.S. approves F-16 fighter jets sale to Turkey, F-35 jets to Greece after Turkey approved Sweden’s NATO membership

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By Rob Samuelson

In a strategic shift following Turkey’s approval of Sweden’s NATO membership, the Biden administration has greenlit the sale of F-16 fighter jets to Turkey. 

This decision aligns with the recent expansion of NATO, which has gained heightened significance in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

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U.S. approves major F-16 sale to Turkey and F-35 jets to Greece 

The State Department informed Congress of its decision to approve the $23 billion F-16 sale to Turkey. 

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Accompanying this deal is an $8.6 billion sale of advanced F-35 fighter jets to Greece. The announcement came shortly after Turkey ratified Sweden’s accession to NATO and following the resolution of objections by several key U.S. lawmakers. 

Turkey’s purchase includes 40 new F-16s and upgrades for 79 of its existing fleet, while Greece is set to receive 40 F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighters and associated equipment.

Turkey’s F-16 upgrade tied to Sweden’s NATO membership 

Turkey’s desire to upgrade its F-16 fleet has been a longstanding goal, and it linked its support for Sweden’s NATO bid to the approval of this new deal. 

Despite initial reservations from U.S. lawmakers due to human rights concerns, these objections were eventually overcome. 

Cardin supports F-16 sale to Turkey, citing improved human rights commitments

Senator Ben Cardin, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, acknowledged these concerns but cited Turkey’s commitments to improving its human rights record as a reason for his agreement. 

“I look forward to beginning this new chapter in our relationship with Turkey, expanding the NATO alliance, and working with our global allies in standing up to ongoing Russian aggression against its peaceful neighbors,” Cardin stated.

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Turkey’s stance on Sweden’s NATO membership

Turkey’s ratification of Sweden’s NATO membership was delayed over a year. 

Ankara cited concerns that Sweden was not adequately addressing Turkey’s national security issues, including its stance against Kurdish militants and other groups considered security threats by Turkey. 

The delay had caused frustration among the U.S. and other NATO allies, who had quickly accepted Sweden and Finland’s bids to join the alliance following their shift from military neutrality in response to Russia’s actions in Ukraine.

Sweden’s NATO accession awaits Hungary’s approval

With Turkey’s approval now secured, Sweden’s formal accession to NATO hinges on Hungary, the last NATO ally yet to ratify its membership. 

U.S. and NATO officials are optimistic about swift action from Hungary, especially given Turkey’s recent decision.

NATO growth and U.S. arms sales to Turkey, Greece boost alliance security

As these developments unfold, they represent a significant moment in NATO’s expansion and the geopolitical landscape shaped by Russia’s military actions. 

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The U.S.’s defense sales to Turkey and Greece not only strengthen these nations’ military capabilities but also signal a more profound commitment to the security and political dynamics of the NATO alliance.

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