The Biden administration approved over $31 billion in fighter jet sales to both Turkey and Greece on Friday, hoping to bolster military ties between the US and these two important NATO members.
The action is crucial at this moment because of the escalating tensions inside the alliance over Turkey’s initial rejection of Sweden’s and Finland’s NATO membership applications.
The State Department formally notified Congress of the proposed sales, which include a $23 billion agreement that would supply Turkey with parts to modernize 79 F-16s that are currently in its fleet in addition to 40 new Lockheed Martin F-16 fighter jets.
Furthermore, a different $8.4 billion deal would supply forty Lockheed Martin-built F-35A Lightning II stealth aircraft to Greece, a fellow NATO member.
In addition to helping both nations’ forces, the sales might promote improved ties between the two NATO members. Greece and Turkey recently became tense over Turkey’s position regarding the approval of Sweden’s and Finland’s NATO membership applications.
However, following discussions, the government of Turkey approved Sweden’s enlargement earlier this week, which probably encouraged the Biden administration to proceed with authorizing the fighter jet contracts.
An official from the State Department stated, “We believe that these sales serve the interests of the United States by improving bilateral relations with Turkey and Greece.”
According to the official, these sales will “provide key strategic partners with capabilities critical to strengthening NATO defense and deterring regional threats.”
However, some US politicians have questioned the fighter jet sales, especially to Turkey, due to Turkey’s human rights record and its initial rejection of Sweden and Finland’s NATO membership.
It’s uncertain if Congress will act to stop the sales of F-16s to Turkey, despite the top Republican and Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee having already pledged to stop the sales.
Lockheed Martin, a defense contractor, is probably happy to hear about the impending sales. In addition to bringing in more orders for the F-16 and F-35 manufacturing lines, the deal would solidify the status of both fighter jets as the most widely used in the west.
Although the sales are not yet complete, today’s announcement begins the clock on the Congressional scrutiny of one of the biggest military agreements in recent memory between the United States and its NATO partners.