Sale Of F-16s To Turkey Could Spur Senate Retaliation, Menendez Says


Credit: Tony Osborne/Aviation Week

Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) said on May 10 that the Biden administration will respect his informal veto of a sale of Lockheed Martin F-16 Block 70/72s to Turkey, and warned that he will retaliate if any deal is made with Ankara. 

The remarks at a conference in Washington about Cyprus show that Menendez does not expect the White House to approve a sale of F-16s to Turkey in exchange for President Recep Erdogan’s approval of Sweden’s bid for NATO membership. 

Secretary of State Antony Blinken met with Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu in January and February, when he reiterated the Biden administration’s support since last June for modernizing Turkey’s F-16 fleet. 

Before and after those meetings, Menendez said he asked Blinken whether the Biden administration intended to break his informal veto of the proposed sale of F-16s. Blinken said the White House would not sign an arms deal with Turkey, Menendez said. The Senate does not have a statutory veto of foreign arms sales, but the White House normally respects “holds” placed by certain members.

Menendez, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, also warned the executive branch that he could retaliate if Blinken’s promise to him is broken. 

“Of course I am not without resources if that happens,” Menendez said. “I don’t expect any confrontation, but it would be foolish for an administration to do that.”

For his part, Cavusoglu has said he expects the Biden administration to complete the sale of F-16s to Turkey, as a NATO ally.

The limbo status of the deal has been linked to concerns that Turkey could refuse to accept Sweden’s bid to join NATO at the alliance’s summit in Vilnius, Lithuania, next month. 

For several years, Menendez has voiced strong concerns about Erdogan’s treatment of U.S. regional allies and respect for human rights in Turkey.

Steve Trimble

Steve covers military aviation, missiles and space for the Aviation Week Network, based in Washington DC.


1 Comment
Menendez' and the administration's actions on this issue are the embodiment of the process that the administration follows for all issues: give in to the biggest mouth.