The US government has backed the $23bn (£18bn) deal of 40 new F-16 fighter jets to Turkey – a sale that had been long delayed – after Ankara approved Sweden’s accession to NATO.
Turkey has secured a deal to purchase F-16 fighter jets from the United States, including modernization kits for existing Turkish F-16s.
This development comes after Turkey ratified Sweden’s NATO accession, resolving a year-long delay that strained relations within the alliance. The deal also includes the sale of 40 F-35 fighters to Greece, costing $8.6 billion.
The geopolitical context, particularly Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in 2022, has underscored Turkey’s strategic importance within NATO, especially in the Black Sea region.
Details of the Deal
The F-16 deal involves the sale of new fighter jets and modernization kits for 79 existing Turkish F-16s.
The agreement was contingent on Turkey ratifying Sweden’s NATO membership, a process that faced delays due to Turkish concerns about Sweden’s alleged support for Kurdish separatists.
After Turkish MPs finally ratified Sweden’s NATO bid and President Tayyip Erdogan gave his approval, the US State Department moved forward with the F-16 deal.
US Approval and Geopolitical Significance
US President Joe Biden urged the swift approval of the F-16 sales to Turkey following the resolution of Sweden’s NATO accession.
The geopolitical landscape, marked by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, has elevated the strategic importance of Turkey as a NATO member, particularly in the Black Sea region.
The sale of F-16s to Turkey aligns with NATO’s efforts to strengthen its capabilities and deter potential threats.
Human Rights and Accountability Considerations
While the approval of the F-16 deal signifies progress, concerns have been raised about Turkey’s human rights record and its role in holding Russia accountable for the invasion of Ukraine.
Democratic Senator Ben Cardin, chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, emphasized the need for improvements in Turkey’s human rights practices.
Ongoing NATO Accession Process
With Turkey’s ratification of Sweden’s NATO membership, Hungary remains the sole NATO member yet to ratify Sweden’s accession. Efforts are ongoing to address this, emphasizing the importance of maintaining unity within the alliance.
The F-16 deal and the resolution of Sweden’s NATO accession highlight the intricate diplomatic dynamics within NATO and the broader geopolitical context.
As Turkey strengthens its defense capabilities, ongoing considerations of human rights and accountability underscore the complexities associated with arms transfers in international relations.