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Following the approval of Sweden into NATO, Senate Democrat permits F-16 sales to Turkey.

Senator Ben Cardin, a leading Democrat overseeing foreign affairs in the Senate, has granted approval for the sale of F-16s to Turkey, citing Ankara’s agreement to Sweden’s NATO accession. In a statement, Cardin acknowledged that his decision was not taken lightly and expressed concerns about Turkey’s human rights record, global connections, and Middle East policies. The approval hinged on Turkey’s consent for Sweden to join NATO, a decision that Ankara had delayed for over a year. During this period, Turkey negotiated various concessions from Sweden, including its stance on Kurdish groups and arms sales. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan sought U.S. intervention to override a hold placed by former Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Menendez on the F-16 sales, conditioning it on Turkey permitting Sweden’s NATO membership. Menendez, who faced legal issues and stepped down as committee chairman, had imposed the hold. Cardin, who succeeded Menendez, maintained the hold until Turkey fulfilled its commitment regarding Sweden’s NATO entry.

Cardin also expressed concerns about Turkey’s ties with Russia, human rights record, and policies in the Middle East. He had conveyed these concerns to the Biden administration during ongoing engagements. Cardin criticized Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán for obstructing NATO expansion by delaying Sweden’s NATO ratification and impeding EU economic aid to Ukraine. The NATO expansion is viewed as a crucial measure against Russian aggression, extending NATO’s northern border with Russia following Sweden’s accession, which came after Finland joined in June 2023. Cardin expressed hope for productive discussions between the Biden administration and Turkish officials to address these concerns.

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