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Democrats stand between Biden and sale of U.S. fighter jets to Turkey

“How do you reward a nation that does all of those things?” Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chair Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) stated in an interview. “I don’t see it. Now, if they want to start changing their ways, that’s a different story.”

Menendez is one of 4 lawmakers whose approval is required for overseas army gross sales. He has lengthy opposed the sale, and doubled down this week even after Biden stated on the NATO summit final month that he needed to promote the jets to Turkey.

Biden’s remarks got here after Turkey dropped its opposition to Finland and Sweden becoming a member of NATO, however the White House has stated there was no connection between Turkey’s transfer and Biden’s remarks.

Lawmakers say that Turkey ought to have by no means thrown up roadblocks to the 2 NATO aspirants within the first place. On prime of that, Turkey is going through U.S. sanctions for its earlier purchases of Russian-made missile protection programs, and its pilots have violated Greece’s airspace a whole lot of occasions in latest weeks. Menendez additionally cited the “rise of authoritarianism” below President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

What’s extra, the House is voting this week on an modification to the annual protection coverage laws that might tie Biden’s palms by barring the sale until he can certify that it’s important to U.S. nationwide safety and that the jets received’t be used to violate Greece’s airspace.

It’s unclear whether or not the Biden administration will strive to persuade Menendez to again the F-16 sale. When requested whether or not he might be satisfied to drop his opposition, Menendez responded: “Not very much.” His GOP counterpart on the Foreign Relations Committee, Sen. Jim Risch of Idaho, is undecided.

Democratic members of the Hellenic Caucus released a blistering statement final week in response to Biden’s declaration of assist for the sale, saying the administration hasn’t allayed their considerations about Turkey’s “antagonistic actions” towards Greece in addition to its potential re-invasion of Syria to goal U.S.-allied Kurds.

“Until the administration can provide suitable answers on how they intended to mitigate the above-listed concerns, we will continue to object to this weapons transfer and do everything we can to ensure that these F-16s are not delivered to the Turkish government,” the lawmakers concluded.

Not all Democrats are opposed to the sale.

House Armed Services Committee Chair Adam Smith (D-Wash.) stated that whereas he believes Menendez’s considerations are “legitimate,” promoting F-16s would assist restore the U.S.-Turkey relationship.

“Turkey has done a lot of things that have made the relationship difficult. But it’s not a relationship we can afford to flush,” Smith stated in an interview. “So we need to try to find a way to rebuild it. F-16s seem like a reasonable way to do it.”

While congressional opposition makes it exceedingly tough for Biden to promote the superior fighter jets to Turkey, he has a break-glass possibility. He might declare a state of emergency to circumvent Congress — a step taken by President Donald Trump when lawmakers wouldn’t approve his bid to sell weapons to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

Connor O’Brien contributed to this report.

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