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Experts say Turkey could expect military equipment concessions from NATO in return for voting to support Finland and Sweden joining the alliance.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan last week expressed his country’s concerns over a “terrorist” Kurdish presence in the two candidate countries.
NATO candidates are demanding that the 30 indigenous members support their candidacy, and Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu has signaled that “Turkey’s security concerns should also be met”.
But former NATO chief Jaap de Hoop Scheffer thinks Turkey wants much more in return for its vote.
“The price is unknown at this time, but that there will be a price is clear,” Scheffer told Politico. “That price may well be that the Americans lift their lockdown on the F-16s.”
Turkey had for years reliably bought F-16s and their F-35 successor from the United States, but the United States cut Ankara for buying Russian S-400 missile systems in 2019. The administration Trump also imposed a number of sanctions on Turkey for its purchase. .
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Erdogan submitted a request for new F-16 jets to the Biden administration in October 2021, but that request remained pending. A State Department letter on the matter from March 2022 said the sale of F-16s would potentially be in line with U.S. national security interests, according to Reuters.
“The administration believes that there are nonetheless compelling long-term interests in the unity and capabilities of the NATO alliance, as well as national security, economic and commercial interests of the United States that are supported. through appropriate defense trade ties with Turkey,” the letter reads.
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“The proposed sale will require notification from Congress should the State Department approve it,” he added.
Soner Cagaptay, director of the Turkey research program at the Washington Institute, told The New York Times that Erdogan would likely try to secure pledges for F-16s at the NATO summit in June.
Turkey frequently uses military contracts to help build political ties: In addition to the Russian purchase of S-400 in 2019, which created stronger ties with Russia, Turkey recently announced the launch of a corvette of Turkish construction for the Pakistan Navy.
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Erdogan said the ship represented Turkey’s commitment to supporting and strengthening Pakistan’s military infrastructure, Daily Sabah reported. Turkey and Pakistan signed an agreement in 2018 to deliver four Ada-class ships from Turkish state defense company ASFAT.