In a notable development, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey has seized upon the legal challenges facing US Senator Bob Menendez as a potential opportunity to advance Turkey’s requested purchase of F-16 US fighter jets. Menendez, a vocal critic of Erdogan’s government and a long-standing opponent of selling F-16s to Turkey, has recently faced charges of accepting bribes from New Jersey businessmen.
Erdogan was quoted as saying, “Menendez being out of the picture is an advantage,” indicating that the absence of this influential US senator could work in Turkey’s favor. Erdogan emphasized the potential benefits of leveraging this situation not only for the F-16 deal but also for addressing other issues where Menendez and like-minded individuals have obstructed Turkish interests.
The pending ratification of Sweden’s NATO membership bid by Turkey was also brought into the discussion. Erdogan highlighted the need for the White House to fulfill its promise regarding the sale of F-16 fighter jets to Turkey, stating that Turkey expects a clear response from the United States on this matter without further delay.
Turkey had formally requested the purchase of 40 Lockheed Martin Corp F-16 fighters and 79 modernization kits for its existing warplanes in October 2021. The Biden administration has expressed support for this $20 billion sale but is reportedly linking the F-16 fighter jet sales to Turkey with Ankara’s ratification of Sweden’s NATO membership bid.
Erdogan asserted that Turkey would ratify Sweden’s bid if the US administration upholds its commitment regarding the F-16 sale. This underscores the interplay of diplomatic and strategic considerations in the context of arms deals and NATO relations between the two countries. The outcome of these negotiations will likely have implications for regional stability and security.