President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has spoken to his U.S. counterpart Joe Biden twice, once by phone, since he took office in January 2021.
From the face-to-face meeting held in Brussels on June 14th, the two seemed to reach a conclusion that could be summarized as focusing on areas where cooperation could be achieved, rather than on sticking points where it was difficult to make any progress.
As things currently stand, the Afghanistan issue seemed to be the most convenient topic for cooperation.
By keeping control of Kabul Airport, Turkey would have ensured that foreign, mostly Western countries' representations in the capital.
However, as you all know by now, things did not go as planned in Afghanistan.
With the Taliban taking control of Kabul very quickly with the collapse of the Afghan army, which was created by the U.S. and turned out to be a “paper tiger” when it suddenly disintegrated, the project that would’ve seen Turkey taking control over Hamid Karzai Airport became futile.
Therefore, there is not much left to talk about and cooperate on between the two countries in Afghanistan.
Erdogan and Biden will meet for the second time face-to-face at the G-20 summit in Rome at the end of the month.
Judging by the statements made before the summit and certain developments, this time the focus of the meeting will be the search for a solution to the F-35 issue.
Speaking to reporters on the plane at the end of his African tour, Erdogan said, “We will get our $1.4 billion one way or another. Turkey will not be gouged." After saying that, he elaborated on a formula for a solution and said, “Our defense ministers will talk now. I believe we will go the distance. We'll talk to Biden at the G-20 in Rome. We will ask, “What are we doing, what is going on?”
We know that the American side has also made a statement that they are in consultation with the Turkish authorities to find a solution to the F-35 crisis.
The meeting between the defense ministers mentioned by Erdogan took place the previous day in Brussels.
National Defense Minister Hulusi Akar had met with U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin.
According to media reports, during this vis-à-vis, the necessity of holding a detailed meeting before the G-20 Leaders' Summit, which will be held in Rome at the end of this month, was discussed in order to set a positive agenda.
What is out our main takeaway from this?
So, "consultations" will be ongoing until that date in order to "set a positive agenda" before the meeting in Rome.
Meanwhile, through the statements of Ministry Spokesperson Tanju Bilgiç, we learned that there is ongoing contact between the Ministries of Foreign Affairs regarding the same issue.
According to what Bilgiç said at the press briefing, there are three options on the table:
“Either we will return to this program, we will either get the planes we were promised, or they will refund our money.”
As can be surmised from these words, the use of the $1.4 billion money Turkey paid for the F-35 in order to modernize its F-16s is on the table as an option.
However, there are some question marks about this part of the deal.
About half of the amount of money Turkey paid for the F-35s consists of the sum intended for the program partnership and it does not seem easy to reimburse.
In addition, considering that the monetary value of the discussed issue is close to $7 billion , it is necessary to consider how profitable this thing is.
We have passed all of them, even if the American administration accepts Turkey's F-16 bid, the issue has to be greenlit in Congress.
And whether Congress will allow that purchase is a big question mark.
Still, let us emphasize that that Turkey is not exactly “stuck and helpless” because of the aforementioned question marks.
We know that there are no “scary” consequences should Turkey be removed from the F-35 program, based on what we already know.
We already know that being removed from this program will have a stimulating effect and that Turkey will gain in the medium and long term, even if some obstacles do arise in the short term.
In addition, Turkey continues to pen its own impressive story when it comes to the field of unmanned aerial vehicles.
By 2023, the jet-powered unmanned fighter aircraft will take off. As it continues to be in development, the idea that this aircraft can match the performance of manned warplanes simply cannot be ignored as its capabilities increase.
In addition, the National Combat Aircraft is also expected to be out of the hangars soon enough.
Of course, Turkey's removal from the F-35 program should not be seen as a mere “simple” event.
However, creating a perception of “obligation” and “conviction” just because this is the case is in no way a fair attitude to adopt.