The U.S. State Department sent a letter to Congress, in which it asked members to respond positively to Turkey's request for the purchase and modernization of F-16 fighter jets.
According to Reuters, the letter included the following:
1- The Biden administration believes that the sale of F-16 fighter jets to Turkey will be in line with U.S. national security interests,
2- It was emphasized that such a sale would serve NATO's long-term unity.
As you all know, in October, Turkey had requested the purchase of 40 F-16 fighters from the U.S. and nearly 80 modernization kits to be used for existing aircraft.
Apart from the U.S. Department of State, the Pentagon, and the White House also reportedly regard this request positively.
However, the positive stance from the administration and relevant institutions may not prove sufficient.
It all depends on whether Congress, where anti-Turkey sentiment is at a record high, will rule favorably when this issue is put to a vote.
Biden told Erdoğan he needed time
Let's recap quickly:
This issue came up at the Erdogan-Biden meeting held in Rome at the end of October, and Biden informed Erdogan that he regarded Ankara's request positively, but argued that this issue needed time and that there was a delicate balance in Congress, and that it was not possible for him to make a decision on his own.
There is a 50/50 balance between Republicans and Democrats in the Senate.
After Biden brought up this equation in his meeting with Erdogan, he said, as if to gain the upper hand in negotiations, "Because of this balance, each senator acts as if they’re president."
Erdogan, for his part, had this to say to Biden: "I believe you can make it happen and that you hold sway when it comes to this issue at the moment."
The letter penned by the U.S. State Department represents a concrete step for the first time in terms of meeting Turkey's demand and convincing members of Congress to follow suit.
In terms of persuasion, we see that the S-400 issue has been brought up in one instance.
In the letter, it is emphasized that after the Russian purchase of the S-400 systems, Turkey was removed from the F-35 fighter jet program with the sanctions imposed and that this represents a “significant price paid."
The increase in solidarity within NATO with the Ukraine war and the re-emphasis on Turkey's critical role may have pushed the U.S. administration to "act quickly" to meet Ankara's demand.
However, it still remains to be seen what Congress will have to say on this issue.
Can improved ties with Israel sway Congress?
Those familiar with the history of Turkish-American relations know that reactions to Turkey in the U.S. Congress are mostly shaped by the Jewish lobby.
Although the main discomfort in recent years stems more from Turkey's refusal to give up on the S-400 decision despite the pressure and its efforts to build an Ankara-based foreign policy independent of the United States, the root of the issue is a public deteriorating relationship between Turkey and Israel.
From this point of view, it can be thought that the recent improvement in relations between Turkey and Israel may have a positive effect on the members of Congress.
But how far can that go?
The Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, Senator Bob Menendez, who championed anti-Turkey sentiment in Congress, had declared just a few weeks ago that "If Turkey wants F-16s, it should get rid of the S-400s."
Therefore, if members of Congress insist on the demand to abandon the S-400, it may not be enough on its own for Turkey to improve relations with Israel.
Meanwhile, one would be remiss to neglect another important issue:
In fact, Turkey has the necessary technological structure for the modernization of the F-16 and can already do this by its own means.
In other words, the F-16 request conveyed to the American side is not an issue that is “indispensable” or that would complicate things should it not happen.
Moreover, the fact that the American side has not met any of Turkey's demands on several other issues, mainly the YPG and FETO terror groups, continues to feed the climate of distrust in Ankara.
Although these latest developments indicate that relations with the United States have moved away from past tensions, it cannot be fully said that they are on steady ground yet.