The Biden administration hopes to win approval from Congress to sell modernized F-16s to Turkey and fifth-generation F-35 Lightning II stealth fighters to Greece.
Turkey will buy 40 updated F-16 jets and 79 modernization kits for its older F-16s.
At the same time, it is considering the Turkish bid, including air-to-air missiles and bombs. Congress will also be handling a Greek request to buy at least 30 new F-35s — the same aircraft Turkey helped develop and had planned to acquire up to 100 to renew its air force.
The potential sale is valued at $20 billion to the US.
According to The Wall Street Journal, the administration hopes that the sale will inspire Turkey to approve the entry of Sweden and Finland into NATO.
The news, however, drew immediate criticism from Senator Bob Menendez, Democratic chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
“As I have repeatedly made clear, I strongly oppose the Biden administration’s proposed sale of new F-16 aircraft to Turkey,” Menendez said in a statement seen by Politico. “President Erdogan continues to undermine international law, disregard human rights and democratic norms, and engage in alarming and destabilizing behaviour in Turkey and against neighbouring NATO allies.”
Diplomatic tensions over the Aegean Sea
In August 2022, Congress passed an amendment demanding that President Joe Biden certify Turkey has not “violated the sovereignty of Greece, including through territorial overflights” for at least 120 days before the sale of F-16 fighters.
Both countries have different boundary delineations over the Aegean Sea, leading to Turkish fighters regularly overflying inhabited Greek islands.
Balance Of Power
Suleyman Ozeren, a professorial lecturer at the American University and senior fellow at the Orion Policy Institute, pointed out that the Biden administration's support for selling F-16s to Turkey had already been on the agenda before the Russia-Ukraine war began in February 2022.
"By adding the condition of Turkey's consent for Finland and Sweden's accession to NATO, the Biden administration aims to put more pressure on Ankara and, in doing so, to put forward a more convincing argument before Congress," he told me. "The administration seeks to sweeten the deal by including the F-35 sale to Greece to overcome any resistance from Congress."
Furthermore, Ozeren believes the deals aim to maintain the balance of power between Turkey and Greece but noted that the balance has changed in the latter's favour in recent years.
"By selling F-35s to Greece, the United States gives an upper hand to Greece," he said. "Unless Ankara's regional policies shift, the U.S. short terms strategy is more like balancing Turkey with Greece in the region than seeking a balance of power between the two," reports forbes.com