The United States has given the green light for the sale of advanced fighter jets to Turkey and Greece, solidifying NATO’s stance and capabilities in the aftermath of the Russia-Ukraine war. The approved deals include a $23 billion agreement for F-16 fighter jets with Turkey and an $8.6 billion deal for F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighters with Greece. This significant move comes after the Turkish parliament ratified Sweden’s NATO membership, ending a 20-month delay that had raised concerns about the unity of the Western-led alliance.
The U.S. State Department officially notified Congress late Friday about the arms deals, marking a crucial step in strengthening NATO’s military capabilities in the strategically vital region. The agreement with Turkey involves the sale of 40 new F-16s, along with equipment to modernize 79 of its existing F-16 fleet. Meanwhile, Greece is set to receive 40 state-of-the-art F-35s and related equipment.
The approval of these arms deals was contingent on the Turkish parliament’s ratification of Sweden’s NATO membership, a condition that had led to delays in the process. Turkey had linked its approval to the acquisition of new fighter jets, emphasizing its commitment to modernizing its military capabilities.
While the Biden administration had supported the arms sales, objections were initially raised by lawmakers, including concerns about Turkey’s human rights record. Notably, Senators Ben Cardin and Jim Risch, key figures in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, had expressed reservations. However, these concerns have reportedly been addressed, paving the way for the final approval of the arms deals.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken played a pivotal role in leading intense diplomatic efforts to secure the agreements. The Biden administration conveyed to Turkey that the delivery of the fighter jets was contingent on Sweden’s NATO bid facing no further obstacles. The diplomatic maneuvering underscores the intricate nature of negotiations in the geopolitical landscape.
The approval of these arms deals holds global significance, particularly in the context of heightened tensions following Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022. The strengthening of NATO capabilities through these fighter jet sales is viewed as a resolute response to regional security challenges.
Attention now turns to Hungary, the only remaining NATO member yet to ratify Sweden’s NATO membership. The delay in Hungary’s decision had been a source of concern, but recent signs suggest progress in the accession process. With Sweden’s formal accession to NATO awaiting Hungary’s approval, the alliance is poised for further expansion.