The House on Thursday voted in favor of adopting an amendment to the next defense policy bill that places restrictions on the U.S.’ ability to export new F-16 fighter jets to Turkey.
The measure, approved by a 244 to 179 vote during floor consideration of the fiscal year 2023 National Defense Authorization Act, blocks the sale of new F-16s and aircraft upgrade equipment to Turkey unless the administration provides certification to Congress that such a transfer is in the U.S.’ national interest.
Rep. Frank Pallone (D-N.J.), a co-sponsor of the amendment, said the measure was necessary in the wake of the White House’s signal of support for selling more F-16s to Ankara, adding that the Biden administration has “ignored strong and consistent Congressional opposition to this sale since it was first proposed by Turkey’s [President Recep Tayyip] Erdogan last fall.”
“The sale of American advanced fighter jets to Turkey will not incentivize Erdogan to suddenly transform into a good ally. More likely, these weapons will lead to further death and destruction in the region. For far too long, the United States has allowed Erdogan to dictate his terms and hide behind Turkey’s status as a NATO ally,” Pallone said.
Pallone noted the amendment would specifically require the administration to detail concrete steps to ensure Turkey would not use F-16s for territorial overflights of Greece.
“The bottom line is [the White House] has not put forward any explanation of how this is in the national interest of the United States or any description of the problems that we face because of Turkey’s continued aggression, whether it’s in Greece, whether it’s in Cyprus, whether it’s in Armenia, whether it’s in other parts of the Middle East, Syria, Libya. The list goes on,” Pallone said.
Rep. Pete Sessions (R-Texas) spoke in opposition to the amendment, citing his view that such a matter would fall under the House Foreign Affairs Committee’s jurisdiction and therefore out of the NDAA’s purview.
“First, the Armed Services Committee does not have the jurisdiction [on this matter]. And secondly, it is very much in the United States’ best interest to make sure that Turkey has top-line F-16 fighters,” Sessions said.
Pallone also cited Turkey’s recent opposition to Finland and Sweden’s ongoing effort to join NATO, as well as Ankara’s continued use of the Russian-built S-400 missile defense system.
“Erdogan continues to prioritize short-term personal gains above the collective good of his NATO allies and allowing the [F-16] sale to go through would be a major mistake,” Pallone said.
The U.S. has previously placed sanctions on Turkey for its purchase of Russia’s S-400 system, which followed the Pentagon’s decision to remove Ankara from the F-35 program (Defense Daily, Dec. 14 2020).
The House is set to vote Thursday evening on final passage of its nearly $840 billion version of the FY ’23 NDAA.