NATO, Ukraine, Congress: Complicated points roil U.S.-Turkey relations



America is locked in a fragile dance with Turkey, certainly one of its most problematic allies, that includes fighter jets, the North Atlantic Treaty Group, Congress and, finally, the warfare in Ukraine.

Turkish Overseas Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, in Washington this week to satisfy with U.S. officers, wasted no time in placing entrance and middle his nation’s demand for U.S.-made F-16 warplanes.

“We’ll tackle vital matters about bilateral protection cooperation, significantly our F-16 request,” Cavusoglu mentioned forward of the conferences, as Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken appeared on, stone-faced. “This isn’t just for [Turkey] but additionally necessary for NATO and for United States as effectively, so we anticipate the approval within the line with our joint strategic curiosity.”

Administration officers final week issued an “casual notification” to Congress {that a} $20-billion sale of F-16s to Turkey was within the works. However the concept approval for such a sale is perhaps forthcoming shouldn’t be broadly shared on the State Division and the White Home.

Highly effective U.S. lawmakers are blocking new arms gross sales to Turkey, citing the federal government of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and its more and more authoritarian flip away from democracy, its repression of dissidents and minorities, and its menacing of neighbors.

However Turkey can block one thing that the U.S. and many of the West dearly need: the growth of NATO to incorporate Sweden and Finland.

As a member of NATO, Turkey has veto energy over permitting new international locations to affix. The 30-nation alliance has to approve any such growth unanimously.

Lengthy impartial, Sweden and Finland started to see NATO safety as pressing following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine almost a 12 months in the past. The 2 international locations are inside a missile strike of the Kremlin, ought to President Vladimir Putin make good on his threats to retaliate towards pro-NATO sentiment in his perceived yard.

Turkey’s NATO allies are in a troublesome place: The federal government in Ankara has insisted that the 2 Nordic nations cease providing refuge to Kurdish rebels against the Erdogan authorities. And Erdogan has branded the opponents as terrorists who should be arrested and punished.

The Biden administration stays “deeply involved” over the abuse of free expression and different human rights in Turkey, officers say, however is inclined to finally go forward with the sale.

“In relation to the F-16s, President Biden mentioned that as a common matter, he believes that we must always promote Turkey the F-16 jets and modernize their current fleet as effectively,” State Division spokesman Ned Value mentioned.

However, he added, “this can be a course of that includes Congress, in fact, and … I don’t suppose I’m betraying any secrets and techniques, as a result of our companions on the Hill have been fairly vocal about this as effectively … there are robust opinions on the Hill.”

These voices are led by Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), who chairs the Senate Overseas Relations Committee and in concept has the facility to cease arms offers with international nations.

“President Erdogan continues to undermine worldwide legislation, disregard human rights and democratic norms, and interact in alarming and destabilizing conduct in Turkey and towards neighboring NATO allies,’’ Menendez mentioned in an announcement late final week, after information of the casual notification of the sale to Turkey circulated.

“Till Erdogan ceases his threats, improves his human rights document at residence — together with by releasing journalists and political opposition — and begins to behave like a trusted ally ought to, I cannot approve this sale,” Menendez added.

There are methods Biden can get round a congressional block on weapons transfers, by government motion or different steps, however State Division officers seem reluctant to pursue that course.

After his conferences in Washington, Cavusoglu spoke to Turkish reporters and acknowledged that the Sweden-Finland NATO query was looming over the talks however mentioned it shouldn’t be a situation of the F-16 sale.

“What’s necessary right here is whether or not the administration shall be decisive or not,” Cavusoglu instructed Turkish state TV broadcaster TRT.

“The administration shouldn’t waste such an necessary deal between two allies simply because one particular person or a number of individuals are blocking it,” he added. “It shouldn’t bow down.”

Turkey can be a hard ally for the U.S. due to its friendliness to Russia, together with expansive commerce, the pursuit of arms offers with Moscow and an alliance with Russian forces in Syria. Turkey’s acquisition of an air protection system from Russia six years in the past led to Western sanctions amid fears Moscow may use the entry to spy on NATO belongings.

However Turkey’s relationship with Russia additionally provides it a job in potential diplomacy to finish Putin’s warfare in Ukraine. Washington credit Ankara with opening up a hall by the Black Sea to permit Ukraine to export hundreds of thousands of tons of grain to world markets regardless of a Russian blockade. On the similar time, Erdogan has refused to affix the West’s imposition of robust sanctions on Moscow for its assaults on Ukraine.

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