Senators reject fighter upgrades for Turkey should it block Sweden, Finland NATO bids

"Congress cannot consider future support for Türkiye, including the sale of F-16 fighter jets, until Türkiye completes ratification of the accession protocols."

Published: February 2, 2023 4:12pm

Updated: February 2, 2023 6:31pm

A bipartisan group of senators are calling on President Joe Biden to impress upon Turkey that Congress would not approve upgrades to Ankara's air fleet should the country refuse to allow Sweden and Finland into NATO.

Sweden and Finland filed to join the alliance in the wake of the Russian invasion of Ukraine last year. The U.S. overwhelmingly approved their entry, with Republican Missouri Sen. Josh Hawley standing alone as the sole Senate vote against their admission.

In order to join NATO, all 30 members must accept their entry. Turkey and Hungary remain the only members of the bloc that have not yet done so. Ankara initially raised objections to their entry over security concerns and remains hesitant to grant its assent despite efforts by Helsinki, Stockholm and the rest of NATO to assuage Turkish fears.

"Despite this evident progress, Türkiye has not ratified the accession protocols for Sweden and Finland and has been unwilling to commit to a timeline for consideration of ratification of the protocols," the senators, led by Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H.; and Thom Tillis, R-N.C.; wrote to Biden. "Türkiye" is an English rendering of the name for Turkey introduced in 2020. The name was formally changed in part to avoid association with the bird.

Now, Senate lawmakers want Biden to apply greater pressure on Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan by voicing the possibility that the U.S. would not approve Turkey's request for modernization kits for its F-16 fighter jets.

"Congress cannot consider future support for Türkiye, including the sale of F-16 fighter jets, until Türkiye completes ratification of the accession protocols," they asserted.

The group nonetheless conceded that "Türkiye has proven to be a valuable NATO ally as Russia's illegal invasion of Ukraine continues."

"We urge you to continue to engage with the U.S. Ambassador to Türkiye, the U.S. Mission to NATO and with our allies, including Sweden and Finland, to encourage Türkiye to act swiftly in support of transatlantic unity and ratify Sweden and Finland's accession protocols to the NATO Alliance," they concluded.

Democratic Maryland Sen. Chris Van Hollen unsuccessfully tried to amend the 2022 National Defense Authorization Act to restrict the transfer of F-16 upgrades to Turkey unless its government committed to admitting Sweden and Finland to the bloc.

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