WASHINGTON – A US President Joe Biden – thought to be a friend of Greece – should not go ahead with his plan to sell more F-16’s to Turkey and upgrade the Turkish Air Force because it will undermine Greece and see a lot of people killed, said a group of American members of Congress.
Led by Rep. Frank Pallone, a New Jersey Democrat and including Greek-American lawmakers, they sent Biden a letter objecting to the idea that must get through Congress for approval.
Biden, meeting Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan at a NATO meeting in Madrid, told him he wants Turkey to get the jets even though they could be used against Greece and Turkish pilots have been violating Greek airspace.
The American lawmakers said Biden would be rewarding Erdogan for underming NATO as well, Turkey having bought Russian-made S-400 missile defense systems that could also be used against Greece.
They also said Turkey will use the jets in its other military operations in the region to kill people and that they “will take every action to prevent it,” although Biden is dead set on helping Turkey after the US also signed a military cooperation agreement with the US to allow more American bases.
In November, Turkey requested 40 Block 70 F-16 fighter jets and 80 modernization kits for their current fleet from the US and Erdogan said he also wants a US embargo on buying F-35s lifted after that was imposed for Turkey acquiring the defense systems from a NATO enemy, Russia.
The American lawmakers presented a united front against Biden, who has suddenly caught himself in a tug o’ war between Erdogan’s pressure and Greece’s worry about the F-16 sales althouh Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said he was satisfied with what the President did at NATO because Greece would seek the F-35’s.
They submitted an amendment to the U.S. defense budget that forbids Biden from transferring weapons to any NATO member that has in the last year repeatedly violated another NATO member state’s airspace, sovereignty or territorial integrity, said Greece’s state-run Athens-Macedonia News Agency AMNA.
There is an out for Biden though as the easure would let him get around the restrictions simply by declaring the sale of the F-16s is vital to American national security which would leave all parties blameless.
Biden would have to made Turkey agree not to use the fighter jets to keep violating Greek airspace with no report how that would be monitored or if it was just window dressing to satisfy Greek concerns.
In a joint statement, Democratic lawmakers Chris Pappas from New Hampshire, Charlie Crist from Florida, Carolyn Maloney from New York, Dina Titus from Nevada and John Sarbanes from Maryland joined with Pallone and the Hellenic Caucus in trying to stop Biden.
In the last decade, they noted, Turkey hasn’t been a “productive member of NATO or a reliable ally to the United States,” and it remains under sanctions for buying the Russian systems and shouldn’t get American arms.
“The Biden Administration has not provided answers to how Turkey would qualify to be exempt from these sanctions and how the Administration would mitigate the risks of co-locating F-16s and modernisation kits with a Russian weapons system, which is why Turkey was removed from the F-35 program,” they said.
They said the in 2022 that Turkey has violated the airspace of fellow NATO ally Greece some 2,377 times, including 120 overflights over Greek territory with the defense alliance looking the other way and even tilting toward Turkey.
“Turkey’s antagonistic actions in the Aegean Sea, as well as their hostile stance towards the Greek government, make it clear that they do not intend to suspend these aggressive and destabilizing actions soon,” the group said.
If Turkey gets the F-16’s and upgrades they said that “American-made warplanes would undoubtedly be used to enter Greek airspace,” not noting that they are now with Turkey’s F-16s often encountering Greek pilots in mock dogfights.
“Over the past seven months, none of Turkey’s actions in the Aegean Sea related to Greece could be classified as defensive but rather are simply intimidation. The Administration has provided no information as to how they are working to have Turkey cease these antagonistic actions toward a US,” said the group which includes many Democrats.
“The sale of advanced fighter aircraft to Turkey gives Erdogan no incentive to change his behaviour and become a good ally but may instead lead to more deaths and destruction in the wider region,” they said.