05.08.2022 Author: Vladimir Platov

US is Willing to Sell Weapons to Turkey Only with Strings Attached


Turkish National Defense Minister Hulusi Akar, while answering questions from Anadolu agency journalists, announced negotiations with the United States on the purchase of F-16s to be held on August 15. As the readers may recall, earlier Ankara requested from Washington 40 F-16 fighters of the Block-70 version and 80 modernization kits for the F-16 aircraft of previous modifications already in service with the Turkish Air Force. The desire to purchase additional F-16s was voiced by Ankara after Turkey was excluded from the American program for the production of fifth-generation F-35 fighters due to the rapprochement between Turkey and Russia.

Washington has, for a number of years now, been putting on the back burner this issue of Turkey’s modernization of its Air Force by purchasing new models of American combat aircraft, under the pretext that five years ago Ankara acquired the Russian S-400 air defense system, instead of the American Patriot missile system, despite the United States’ imperative demands not to do so and the threat of sanctions.

However, note that Turkey’s position on the procurement of the S-400 was not hasty and had a clear justification from Ankara.

Initially, Turkey actually intended to acquire the American Patriots, but the deal was disrupted twice (in 2013 and 2017) because Washington refused to provide Ankara with secret technologies related to the production of this system. In addition, the United States burdened this deal with a number of restrictions and demands, in particular, on provision of full information about each shot and the tasks of the complexes. Furthermore, the service life of Patriot systems was also limited by Turkey’s obligation to return them to the US army after its expiration and purchase new ones. Turkey deemed these demands to be non-starters. Besides, the Russian S-400s were almost twice as cheap as the American Patriots, and more advanced.

But there was another reason, namely, Erdoğan’s lack of confidence in the truth of Washington’s “friendly attitude towards him.” The validity of such suspicions was confirmed, in particular, by the events of the summer of 2016, when a coup was attempted in Turkey. The helicopters attacking Erdoğan’s presidential palace in Ankara belonged to the NATO command and took off from the Incirlik air base in Turkey controlled by the United States and NATO. At the same time, Turkey’s air defense could not protect Erdoğan using Patriot systems, which the United States had withdrawn from this country shortly before. No less suspicious is the fact that no NATO country came to the aid of the Turkish president, and that in a series of many attempts at military coups in Turkey’s history, the United States has always been behind them clearly pursuing its goals and objectives with regard to Turkey.

As a result, Erdoğan preferred the Russian S-400 air defense system to the American Patriots, thus gravely complicating relations with Washington. The anti-Turkish sentiments in the United States manifested themselves, in particular, in the freezing in 2020 by four key members of the US Congress of all major sales of American weapons to Turkey, in an attempt to strengthen the American pressure on Erdoğan.

This pressure continues to this day. For example, last month, the House of Representatives of the US Congress approved the amendment proposed by Democrat Chris Pappas (representing the state of New Hampshire) prohibiting the US administration from selling to Turkey or issuing an export permit for new F-16 aircraft or components until the US President provides Congress with confirmation that such a transfer of equipment meets the national interests of the United States. In addition, taking into account Washington’s recent reorientation towards supporting Greece in the Eastern Mediterranean instead of Turkey, the White House, according to this amendment, must provide confirmation that F-16s will not be used by Turkey to the detriment of Greece.

The same month, the Chairman of the US Senate Foreign Affairs Committee, Robert Menendez, went even further in setting conditions for Ankara, by demanding that Turkey sever relations with Russia for the purchase of F-16 fighter jets, since Washington intends to sell its military equipment only to those countries that “share the values of the United States.”

This pressure from Washington was met in Ankara very critically and the prevailing mood among the Turks on this issue was fully reflected by the Turkish television TRT Haber, which stressed that Ankara does not accept any conditions when purchasing F-16s from the United States. At the same time, it was clarified that at the upcoming negotiations with the United States on August 15, issues of strategic partnership between the two countries will be discussed, “Turkey’s theses will be clarified, and it will be emphasized that sales under conditions are unacceptable.”

At the same time, Turkish National Defense Minister Hulusi Akar announced the possibility of new alternatives and solutions in the event of a failure of negotiations with the United States on the purchase of F-16 fighters. He clearly hinted that Turkey’s multifaceted relations with Russia, which have recently been developing quite favorably, also include joint work on the creation of a new generation military aircraft common to the two countries on the basis of the Russian Su-57 jet.

Ankara’s harsh reaction to Washington’s preliminary demands for the development of US-Turkish military cooperation can also be explained by the fact that the latest US anti-Turkish sanctions also affected Ismail Demir, one of the main Turkish functionaries in the field of national security. He was put on the sanctions list because of his participation in purchasing Russian S-400s, and now it was he who very harshly warned Washington that if the United States refuse to sell the F-16s, Turkey would turn to Russia again, this time to buy advanced aircraft. In particular, Ismail Demir, who heads the country’s Defense Industry Department, earlier announced on Turkish Kanal 7 that Turkey can buy Su-35 and Su-57 fighter jets from Russia if the United States refuses to sell F-16 aircraft to Ankara.

Vladimir Platov, expert on the Middle East, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.


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