US Senate defeats bid to stop F-16 fighter jet sale to Turkey

FILE PHOTO: An F-16 combat jet aircraft of the Turkish airforce takes off at the Air Defender Exercise 2023 at the military airport of Jagel, northern Germany, June 9, 2023. Axel Heimken/Pool via REUTERS/File Photo © Thomson Reuters

By Patricia Zengerle

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -The U.S. Senate on Thursday soundly defeated an effort to stop the $23 billion sale of F-16 fighter jets and modernization kits to Turkey, which President Joe Biden’s administration approved after Turkey approved Sweden’s joining the NATO alliance.

The Senate voted 79 to 13 against a resolution of disapproval of the sale introduced by Republican Senator Rand Paul.

Before the vote, Paul criticized Turkey’s government and said allowing the sale would embolden its “misbehavior.” Backers of the sale said it was important for Washington to keep its word to a NATO ally.

The Biden administration formally informed Congress on Jan. 26 of its intention to proceed with the sale of 40 Lockheed Martin F-16s and nearly 80 modernization kits to Turkey, a day after Ankara fully completed ratification of the NATO membership of Sweden.

The sale had been held up for months over issues including Turkey’s refusal to approve Sweden’s accession to the military alliance. Turkey first asked to make the purchase in October 2021.

The U.S. Arms Export Control Act gives Congress the right to stop a major weapons sale by passing a resolution of disapproval in both the Senate and the House of Representatives. Although the law has been in effect for half a century, no such resolution has both passed Congress and survived a presidential veto.

Sweden and Finland applied to enter NATO after Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022. While Finnish membership was sealed last year, Sweden’s bid had been held up by Turkey and Hungary. All NATO members need to approve applications from countries seeking to join the alliance.

Source: Reuters/Reporting by Patricia Zengerle; Editing by Jonathan Oatis