“How do you reward a nation that does all those things?” Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Bob Menendez (DN.J.) said in an interview. “I do not see it. Now, if they want to start changing who they are, that’s a different story.”
Menendez is one of four lawmakers whose approval is required for foreign military sales. He has long opposed the sale and doubled down on it this week even after Biden said at the NATO summit last month that he wanted to sell the planes to Turkey.
Biden’s comments came after Turkey dropped its opposition to Finland and Sweden joining NATO, but the White House has said there was no connection between Turkey’s move and Biden’s comments.
Lawmakers say Turkey should never have put obstacles in the way of the two NATO hopefuls in the first place. On top of that, Turkey faces US sanctions for its previous purchases of Russian-made missile defense systems, and its pilots have violated Greece’s airspace hundreds of times in recent weeks. Menéndez also cited the “rise of authoritarianism” under President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
In addition, the House will vote this week on an amendment to annual defense policy legislation that would tie Biden’s hands by banning the sale unless he can certify that it is critical to US national security and that the planes will not be will be used to violate the rights of Greece. air space.
It is unclear whether the Biden administration will try to persuade Menendez to back the F-16 sale. When asked if he could convince him to drop his opposition, Menendez replied, “Not much.” His Republican counterpart on the Foreign Relations Committee, Sen. Jim Rich from Idaho, is undecided.
Democratic members of the Hellenic Caucus issued a searing statement last week in response to Biden’s statement in support of the sale, saying the administration has not allayed their concerns about Turkey’s “antagonistic actions” toward Greece, as well as its possible reinvasion of Syria. to attack US-allied Kurds.
“Until the administration can provide adequate answers as to how they tried to mitigate the above concerns, we will continue to object to this arms transfer and will do everything possible to ensure that these F-16s are not handed over to the Turkish government.” lawmakers concluded.
Not all Democrats oppose the sale.
Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee adam smith (D-Wash.) said that while he believes Menendez’s concerns are “legitimate,” selling F-16s would help repair the relationship between the United States and Turkey.
“Turkey has done many things that have made the relationship difficult. But it’s not a relationship we can afford to wash away,” Smith said in an interview. “So we have to try to find a way to rebuild it. F-16s seem like a reasonable way to do it.”
While opposition in Congress makes it extremely difficult for Biden to sell the advanced fighter jets to Turkey, he has a breakout option. He could declare a state of emergency to bypass Congress, a step President Donald Trump took when lawmakers failed to approve his bid to sell weapons to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
Connor O’Brien contributed to this report.