Now, the US says it “fully supports” Turkey’s plan to modernise its fleet of F-16 fighter aircrafts, officials claim, despite concerns over its handling of human rights. Before Russia launched its invasion in Ukraine, more than 50 US lawmakers sent a letter to Secretary of State Antony Blinked and Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin insisting they reject President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s request for assistance in upgrading its Air Force.
They cited his Government’s “vast human rights abuses” and said Turkey had failed to live up to its NATO obligations.
But Washington officials have now thrown what has been dubbed its “strongest public backing for the request”, which Erdogan filed in October last year.
The move comes after Ankara U-turned on its objection to Finland and Sweden joining NATO.
Joe Biden’s administration said it offered nothing to bring about this move, according to the Financial Times.
But “they said the public approval appeared to help the atmosphere”.
It is understood the topic of F-16 modernisation was not discussed during a meeting at the G7 summit in Germany this week.
Erdogan had previously stood in the way of the two Nordic countries joining the military alliance, insisting “we will not say ‘yes’ to those who apply sanctions to Turkey” and that these must also cut off sources of “terrorism financing” for the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
An agreement was reached this week, meaning there should now be no hiccups on the path to further NATO expansion.
Wallander did, however, note that the sale of new planes would “need to be worked through our contracting processes”.
But broadly speaking, she noted: “The United States supports Turkey’s modernisation of its fighter fleet because that is a contribution to NATO security and therefore American security.”
NATO also this month vowed to radically increase the size of its high-readiness force to “well over” 300,000 troops.
This will be up from 40,000 soldiers.
Commenting on the announcement, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said: “We will enhance our battlegroups in the eastern part of the Alliance up to brigade-levels.”
The upgraded force will, he added, include “more pre-positioned equipment and stockpiles of military supplies”.
Boris Johnson later announced the UK will boost its own defence spending from two to 2.5 percent of GDP.