Biden voices support for selling F-16s to Turkey, denies ‘quid pro quo’
President Biden on Thursday publicly backed the sale of upgraded F-16 fighter jets to Turkey and expressed optimism that Congress would approve the weapons sale.
Biden told reporters at a press conference following a NATO summit in Madrid that he expressed support for selling F-16s to Turkey during a one-on-one meeting with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan a day prior.
At the same time, Biden dismissed the idea that agreeing to sell Turkey the fighter jets would represent a “quid pro quo” after Ankara agreed to relent on its objections to Finland and Sweden joining NATO.
“I said back in December, as you’ll recall, we should sell them the F-16 jets and modernize those jets as well,” Biden told reporters. “It’s not in our interest not to do that and I indicated to them that I had not changed my position at all since December.”
“There was no quid pro quo with that. It’s just, we should sell,” Biden continued. “I need congressional approval to be able to do that, and I think we can get that.”
A senior U.S. defense official had signaled support for Turkey’s purchase of U.S.-made fighter jets a day prior, but Biden’s declaration nevertheless sent a clearer signal to Turkey and to lawmakers on Capitol Hill who must sign off.
There had been broad speculation since Turkey raised objections to Sweden and Finland’s NATO membership bids that the U.S. would need to offer concessions in order to convince Turkey to back down.
Still, Biden and other administration officials disputed the notion there was a connection between plans for any jet sales and Turkey’s decision to drop its objections earlier this week.
Turkey had opposed the bids by the two Nordic countries for weeks over claims that they weren’t doing enough to fight terrorism, and particularly to crack down on the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
A major breakthrough came earlier this week when the three countries — Turkey, Sweden, and Finland — signed a memorandum agreeing to deepen counterterrorism cooperation on the first day of the NATO summit. As part of the agreement, Turkey agreed to support their NATO membership bids. The alliance formally asked Sweden and Finland to become members the following day.
Biden has heralded the developments, saying the expansion will strengthen NATO.