The leading Senate Democrat in charge of foreign affairs announced on Friday that he is authorizing the transfer of F-16s to Turkey in exchange for Ankara’s support for Sweden’s NATO membership.
Senator Ben Cardin (D-Md.), leader of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said in a statement that he will allow the sale of F-16s to Turkey, but he expressed reservations about the Turkish government’s human rights record at home and its ties to bad actors around the world.
“My approval of Turkey’s request to purchase F-16 aircrafts has been contingent on Turkish approval of Sweden’s NATO membership. But make no mistake: this was not a decision I came to lightly,” Cardin said.
“My concerns have been strongly and consistently conveyed to the Biden administration as part of our ongoing engagement, and I am encouraged by the productive direction of their discussions with Turkish officials to address these issues.” he continued.
Turkey had obstructed Sweden’s accession to NATO for over a year, attempting to sway Stockholm’s stance on the manner in which it addresses Kurdish terrorist organizations, prohibits arms sales to Turkey, and urges Sweden to assist Turkey in joining the European Union.
Furthermore, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoan exerted pressure on the United States to reverse a stalemate placed by former Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), which obstructed the sale of F-16s, so that Ankara would grant Sweden accession.
In September, Menendez tendered his resignation as chairman of the committee subsequent to a federal indictment that alleged he had accepted bribery with the intention of exploiting his position to exert influence over foreign governments.