US Congress blocks sale of new F-16s to Turkey

10 months ago, in October 2021, the Turkish authorities announced that they had sent an export request to the Foreign Miltiry Sales concerning 40 new F-16 fighter planes to the Block 70 Viper standard, as well as 80 kits to bring 80 of its F-16 Block 52 to this standard, the most advanced currently available for the Lockheed aircraft. Whether the Biden administration had shown itself ready to support such a request in the hope of resuming normalized relations with Ankara, the American Congress, which has the last word on the subject, was more than doubtful. Indeed, for American senators and representatives, the international postures taken by President RT Erdogan, whether in the Middle East in Syria and Iraq, in the Aegean Sea facing Greece and Cyprus, or even in his ambiguous relations with Russia and Iran, did not allow the safe delivery of these new weapons to Ankara, knowing that they could very well turn against the United States or some of its allies. Moreover, many US parliamentarians were not ready to forget Turkey's order of Russian S-400s.

The situation remained relatively frozen for several months, until the start of the Russian invasion of Ukraine precipitated events, leading the Turkish authorities to support the Ukrainian defenders by delivering to them, in particular, the now famous (but less and less effective) MALE TB2 BAyraktar drone, as well as closing the Black Sea straits, effectively blocking several large Russian naval units, including the Slava-class cruisers Marshal Ustinov and Varyag, in the Mediterranean rather than in the off the coast of Ukraine. Above all, Sweden and Finland's application to join the Atlantic Alliance was an opportunity for the Turkish President to take a position of strength in his negotiations with the United States and more broadly, with the other members of the alliance, many of which had significant sanctions in place regarding the export of defense technology to Turkey in recent years.

The delivery of TB2 drones to Ukraine by Turkey enabled Ukrainian forces to resist the first Russian offensives, in particular against Kyiv, while helping to restore Turkey's image with Western leaders.

Officially, there was no negotiation between the United States and Turkey to lift Ankara's veto when it comes to these two memberships. However, in the final vote on the army budget for 2023, American parliamentarians took many reservations in order to frame the possible sale of new defense technologies to Turkey, but also to Saudi Arabia and Egypt. These three countries are indeed targeted by an amendment tabled by the Democratic representative of Massachusetts James McGovern, who is also chairman of the Defense Committee of the House of Representatives, which strictly regulates the export of US Defense technologies to countries participating or having participated. to acts of genocide or in violation of international humanitarian law. In addition, two Democratic representatives, Frank Pallone of New Jersey, and Chris Pappas of New Hampshire, passed an amendment obliging the American executive to take concrete measures in order "to prevent that the F-16s sold to Turkey do not be used to violate Greek airspace in the Aegean Sea". One can of course see the effects of thea visit of the Prime Minister of Greece to the Capitol just two months ago.

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