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EXCLUSIVE: Lawmakers on the Hill are increasingly wary that Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan is “playing a double game” as he seeks to consolidate political gains in return for European security, sources told Fox News on Thursday. .
Some members of Congress are increasingly hesitant to enter negotiations with Ankara after Erdogan moved to block NATO expansion at a time when Europe faces its biggest security threat since the Second World War.
Earlier this month, President Biden urged Congress to approve a $400 million arms deal that would bolster Turkey’s crippled F-16 fleet by providing missiles, radars and equipment, he said. first reported the Wall Street Journal.
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A second proposal is expected to be introduced to replenish Ankara’s air fleets by supplying new F-16s later this year.
The move, which appeared to have been at least initially supported by lawmakers on both sides of the aisle, would help bolster Turkey’s air defenses.
It would also serve to improve Washington’s relationship with the NATO ally after relations cooled in 2019 when the United States blocked the sale of F-35 fighter jets to Turkey following a deal Ankara has also struck to buy Russian-made S-400 defense systems.
But less than two weeks after the Biden-approved proposal was announced, Erdogan said Turkey would block NATO offers from Sweden and Finland over allegations that the two countries harbored individuals. whom Turkey regards as “terrorists”.
A senior congressional official with knowledge of the proposal circulating in Congress told Fox News on Thursday that the Biden administration was being “played” by Turkey.
“They’re not honest brokers and they don’t behave like a NATO ally should,” the staffer said. “They are acting very aggressively in their own interests.”
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Turkey has condemned Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, called for its withdrawal from the UN Human Rights Council and tried to facilitate peace talks between Russia and Ukraine.
But Erdogan has also refused to sanction Moscow and some see his blockade of NATO as a victory for Russian President Vladimir Putin.
While NATO security remains a major concern for some and Russia’s war rages into its third month, others on the Hill are not convinced that expanding the military alliance is necessarily the best option.
A source familiar with the matter said negotiating with Turkey to allow Sweden and Finland to join NATO was “short-term thinking”.
“There are reservoirs of skepticism in all areas,” the source added.
A spokesperson for Sen. Bob Menendez, chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, told Fox News that the leading Democrat was “seriously concerned about Turkey’s undemocratic trajectory under Erdogan – including his unbridled aggression outside its borders, its division stoking the Eastern Mediterranean, the South Caucasus and NATO.
A senior congressional official also pointed to the $40 billion aid package Congress recently passed to support Ukraine and said that while there is overwhelming opposition to Putin’s invasion, there is There was also some GOP “skepticism” about the massive emergency appropriations bill.
“You have to consider the risks of NATO enlargement,” the staffer said. “When the heat of this moment passes and we look at what American policy has been on Ukraine since 2014, one has to weigh these things in a sober matter.”
The White House did not respond to questions from Fox News about whether Biden backs an arms deal with Turkey or whether the administration will negotiate to try to persuade Erdogan to expand NATO.
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“Finland and Sweden are working directly with Turkey to address concerns raised by Ankara,” a National Security Council spokesperson told Fox News. “We are convinced that Turkey’s concerns will be taken into account and that we will reach a consensus as an alliance on the accession process of Finland and Sweden.”
“The United States and Turkey have deep and longstanding bilateral defense ties, and Turkey’s continued interoperability with NATO remains a priority,” the spokesperson added.
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