Biden should slam the door on Turkey F-16 sale

Turkey has reportedly signaled its desire to purchase 40 F-16s from the United States and 80 kits to upgrade its existing F-16 fleet. The deal is worth $6 billion dollars and comes two years after Congress blocked the sale of more advanced F-35 fighter jets to Turkey. Congress took that action in response to Turkey’s acquisition of Russian S-400 missiles.

Turkish officials suggest that the Biden administration is inclined to approve the sale. It should not do so.

First, it is unclear what threat Turkey faces that would justify the new purchase. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s double-dealing with Russia and his subordination of NATO’s strategic interests to his own commercial gain suggests fear of Russia does not motivate the desire to acquire new or upgraded warplanes. Recent Turkish activity shows, instead, that Turkey would likely use new warplanes to bomb Yezidi villages in Iraq’s Sinjar region. Turkey already does so several times per week. While Turkish spokesmen say such attacks target Kurdish terrorists, they instead target farmers and civilians. Turkey has produced no evidence to suggest Kurds in Syria or Iraq are responsible for terrorist attacks inside Turkey.

Likewise, Turkey used its warplanes in support of Azerbaijan’s surprise attack on Nagorno-Karabakh’s Armenian population last year. This was in violation of Turkey’s Section 907 waiver commitments to the State Department and White House.

Second, if the Biden administration greenlights this purchase, it will show hypocrisy for having shut down the F-35 sale in response to the S-400 issues. After all, the concern for the U.S. and NATO was not the financial loss of Erdogan’s deal with Putin, but rather the exposure of defense secrets to Russia. Erdogan, of course, understands this but might instead be seeking a U.S. rejection of the new sale in order to justify the purchase of warplanes from Russia or China. In this case, it still behooves the Biden administration to reject the sale but to explain clearly and repeatedly to the Turkish public the reasons for its actions so as to stymie Erdogan’s scheme.

The last reason why Biden should reject the sale is that it represents an effort by Erdogan to bribe his way out of Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act sanctions. In the last weeks of the Trump administration, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo slapped CAATSA sanctions on the Republic of Turkey’s Presidency of Defense Industries. He explained, “Today’s action sends a clear signal that the United States will fully implement CAATSA Section 231 and will not tolerate significant transactions with Russia’s defense and intelligence sectors.”

Biden and Secretary of State Antony Blinken might often seek to do the opposite of Trump and Pompeo, but there is no reason why they should do so here. CAATSA enjoys bipartisan support, and the logic under which Pompeo imposed the sanctions was sound. To now make a new sale would show that if the price is right, the U.S. will sacrifice key strategic interests. Given how Turkey constantly tests the international community’s commitment to international law and precedent, allowing Erdogan to erode CAATSA without first forfeiting his dealings with Russia’s military industry could have far-reaching repercussions.

There is a tendency within the White House and State Department to want to offer Turkey a consolation prize after it lost access to the F-35 program. This is the wrong approach. Biden should calibrate his administration’s Turkey policy to the reality of its actions. By any such standards, Turkey neither needs nor deserves upgraded aircraft. Only when Erdogan is gone from power, or dead, should Washington reconsider.

This article was originally published here.


Σχετικά Άρθρα