Any decision by the United States to go ahead with the sale of F-16 fighter jets and upgrade kits to Turkey would be “baffling” given the “belligerent” stance of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan towards NATO ally Greece, said Senator Bob Menendez, chair of the Senate’s Foreign Relations Committee, reiterating that he will not approve the sale.
“I would aspire for Turkey to be different than it is under President Erdogan. For Turkey to be the reliable NATO ally, to follow the international norms, to not be belligerent to its neighbors… It is in that context that I have opposed the sale of the F-16s, because at the end of the day, the reality is that we have not seen a Turkey under Erdogan that lives up to those expectations,” Menendez said in an interview with Mega TV on Monday night.
“What we have seen is a Turkey that threatens another NATO ally, i.e. the Hellenic Republic, and it threatens it without justification, without cause. So, in my mind, it would be baffling to sell it military equipment when it harbors such actions and when it has clearly stated time and time again some of its intentions. Maybe the Biden Administration will use my hold on the sale as a way to get Turkey to act in a different way. If that takes place that can be a positive thing. But as of now, I intend to continue to do what I have said I would do, which is that I would not use my ability to approve the sale at this time,” he said.
Asked whether the sale of the fighter jets could go through if there were strings attached “that would ensure that there was a sense of responsibility by the government of Turkey,” Menendez said, “we are nowhere near that at this point in time.”
“We may come to that point if, and only if, we can have Turkey abandon its belligerent position both to the Hellenic Republic, to Cyprus, as well as to other actions in the Eastern Mediterranean, which are adverse to our national interest and our national security.”
Expressing the opinion that despite the “outrageous” and “unacceptable” nature of comments from the Turkish leadership against Greece, “it is that, it is rhetoric,” Menendez also cautioned that “when you have people who are authoritarians, sometimes you may think that all of their comments are just rhetoric – maybe careless, maybe hateful rhetoric – but nonetheless, sometimes you have to worry about the fact that they may mean what they say.
“That is a risk you cannot afford to take,” he said, indicating that Washington should adopt a firmer public stance towards Ankara.
“This is one of the historical problems I have with the State Department: you can’t call on both sides to tame their words or to find a way to peacefully resolve their differences when it is one side, and one side only, that is being belligerent,” he said.
“It also seems to me, from a US perspective, that when you have two NATO allies and one is the aggressor, is clearly the one that has created the consequences, then the United States needs to stand with the country that has been aggrieved,” he said.
He also added that “NATO needs to have a discussion about what happens if someday, God forbid, one NATO ally attacks another one without provocation. It seems to me that the aggressor is the one that should be punished.”