US Congress Threatens to Block F-16 Deal with Turkey

A Turkish F-16 fighter jet participates in an air show in Istanbul on September 21, 2021. (EPA)
A Turkish F-16 fighter jet participates in an air show in Istanbul on September 21, 2021. (EPA)
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US Congress Threatens to Block F-16 Deal with Turkey

A Turkish F-16 fighter jet participates in an air show in Istanbul on September 21, 2021. (EPA)
A Turkish F-16 fighter jet participates in an air show in Istanbul on September 21, 2021. (EPA)

Members of the US Congress have threatened to block any possible sale of F-16 fighter jets to Turkey.

The lawmakers wrote a letter to Secretary of State Antony Blinken stressing their strong opposition to any similar approach due to “Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s policies and his rapprochement with Russia.”

The lawmakers, led by Democrat Carolyn Maloney and Republican Gus Bilirakis, expressed “concern” over reports issued by Turkey on its plan to purchase “40 Lockheed Martin-made F-16 fighter jets and nearly 80 modernization kits for its existing warplanes.”

They affirmed their intention to block any arms deal once it is introduced to the Congress, noting that “Erdogan continues to violate US laws and the NATO principles.”

The letter mentioned the Countering America’s Adversaries through Sanctions Act (CAATSA), a federal law that imposed sanctions on Iran, North Korea, and Russia. The bill was approved by the Senate in July 2017 after it passed the House.

In late 2020, the US imposed sanctions on Turkey for knowingly engaging in a significant transaction with Russia’s main arms export entity, by procuring the S-400 surface-to-air missile system.

Turkey defied this law when it purchased the S-400 system from Russia, the letter stressed, pointing to the efforts to try to reach a solution that prevents sanctions against Ankara.

“Less than a year after the CAATSA sanctions were imposed, Erdogan’s government doesn’t seem to be willing to respect US laws, consider reasons behind expelling Turkey from the F-35 program or address causes of the Congress’s freeze of arms sales to Turkey.”

Instead, Erdogan announced in September that Ankara still intended to buy a second batch of S-400s from Russia.

The lawmakers called for imposing additional sanctions on Turkey if it goes ahead with purchasing the new system from Russia, a position approved by the US ambassador to Turkey, Jeff Flake.



Putin Signs Deals With Vietnam in Bid to Shore Up Ties in Asia

Russia's President Vladimir Putin, who soon begins a visit to North Korea, last traveled to the isolated country in 2000. NATALIA KOLESNIKOVA / AFP
Russia's President Vladimir Putin, who soon begins a visit to North Korea, last traveled to the isolated country in 2000. NATALIA KOLESNIKOVA / AFP
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Putin Signs Deals With Vietnam in Bid to Shore Up Ties in Asia

Russia's President Vladimir Putin, who soon begins a visit to North Korea, last traveled to the isolated country in 2000. NATALIA KOLESNIKOVA / AFP
Russia's President Vladimir Putin, who soon begins a visit to North Korea, last traveled to the isolated country in 2000. NATALIA KOLESNIKOVA / AFP

Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a series of deals with his Vietnamese counterpart To Lam on Thursday, during a state visit that comes as Moscow is seeking to bolster ties in Asia to offset growing international isolation over its military actions in Ukraine.
The two signed agreements to further cooperation on education, science and technology, oil and gas exploration and health. They also agreed to work on a roadmap for a nuclear science and technology center in Vietnam, The Associated Press said.
Following the talks, Putin said that the two countries share an interest in “developing a reliable security architecture” in the Asia-Pacific Region based on not using force and peacefully settling disputes with no room for “closed military-political blocs.”
This was echoed by Vietnam's new President To Lam, who said they seek to further “further cooperate in defense and security to cope with non-traditional security challenges” while implementing energy projects and expanding investments. He also congratulated Putin on his re-election and praised Russia's “domestic political stability.”
The agreements between Russia and Vietnam were not as substantial as an agreement Putin signed with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un the previous day, pledging mutual aid in the event of invasion said Nigel Gould-Davies, a senior fellow for Russia and Eurasia with the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London, and a former British ambassador to Belarus.
Putin arrived in Hanoi early Thursday morning from North Korea, where he and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un signed an agreement that pledges mutual aid in the event of war. The strategic pact that could mark the strongest connection between Moscow and Pyongyang since the end of the Cold War comes as both face escalating standoffs with the West.
Putin also met Vietnam’s most powerful politician, Communist Party General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong, as well as Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh, according to the official Vietnam News Agency. He is also scheduled to meet parliamentary chief Tran Thanh Man.
Putin drove to Vietnam’s Presidential Palace on Thursday afternoon, where he was greeted by school children waving Russian and Vietnamese flags. There, he shook hands with and embraced Lam before a bilateral meeting and a joint briefing to the media.
Russia is keen to maintain “close and effective cooperation” in energy, industry, technology, education, security and trade, Russian Ambassador to Vietnam Gennady S. Bezdetko said on Wednesday, according to Vietnamese official media.
The trip has resulted in a sharp rebuke from the US Embassy in the country.
Much has changed since Putin's last visit to Vietnam in 2017. Russia now faces a raft of US-led sanctions for its invasion of Ukraine. In 2023, the International Criminal Court in Hague issued an arrest warrant for Putin for war crimes. The Kremlin rejected it as “null and void,” stressing that Moscow doesn’t recognize the court's jurisdiction.
Putin's recent visits to China and now North Korea and Vietnam are attempts to “break the international isolation,” said Nguyen Khac Giang, an analyst at Singapore’s ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute.
The US and its allies have expressed growing concerns over a possible arms arrangement in which Pyongyang provides Moscow with badly needed munitions for its use in Ukraine, in exchange for economic assistance and technology transfers that could enhance the threat posed by Kim’s nuclear weapons and missile program.
Both countries deny accusations of weapons transfers, which would violate multiple UN Security Council sanctions that Russia previously endorsed.
Meanwhile, Russia is important to Vietnam for two reasons, Giang said: It is the biggest supplier of military equipment to the Southeast Asian nation, and Russian oil exploration technologies help maintain its sovereignty claims in the contested South China Sea.
“Russia is signaling that it is not isolated in Asia despite the Ukraine war, and Vietnam is reinforcing a key traditional relationship even as it also diversifies ties with newer partners,” said Prashanth Parameswaran, a fellow with the Wilson Center’s Asia Program.
It is unlikely that Vietnam will supplying significant quantities of weapons to Russia, because that would risk progress the country has made with NATO members on military equipment, particularly the US, which has donated naval patrol vessels and is in talks to supply aircraft, said Ridzwan Rahmat, a Singapore-based analyst with the defense intelligence company Janes.
“There is progress that you wouldn’t have imagined just 10 years ago,” he said. “So I would imagine Vietnam wouldn’t want to take a risk, inviting the wrath of Western countries by supplying the Russians.”
Hanoi and Moscow have had diplomatic relations since 1950, and this year marks 30 years of a treaty establishing “friendly relations” between Vietnam and Russia.
Evidence of this long relationship and its influence can be seen in Vietnamese cities like the capital, where the many Soviet-style apartment blocks are now dwarfed by skyscrapers and a statue of Vladimir Lenin, the founder of the Soviet Union, stands in a park where kids skateboard every evening. Many of the Communist Party's top leadership in Vietnam studied in Soviet universities, including party chief Trong.
In an article written for Nhan Dan, the official newspaper of Vietnam’s Communist Party, Putin vowed to deepen the ties between Moscow and Hanoi and hailed Vietnam as a “strong supporter of a fair world order based on international law, on the principles of equality of all states and non-interference in their domestic affairs.”
He also thanked “Vietnamese friends for their balanced position on the Ukrainian crisis,” in the article released by the Kremlin.
Given Putin's international isolation, Vietnam is doing the Russian leader a “huge favor and may expect favors in return,” wrote Andrew Goledzinowski, the Australian ambassador to Vietnam, on social media platform X. He said that it would have been hard for Vietnam to decline the visit since Putin was already in Asia and Vietnam has historical ties with the former Soviet Republic, but said that it was unlikely that the two would be strategic partners again. “Vietnam will always act in Vietnam’s interests and not anyone else’s,” he wrote.
Vietnam's pragmatic policy of “bamboo diplomacy” — a phrase coined by Trong referring to the plant's flexibility, bending but not breaking in the shifting headwinds of global geopolitics — is being increasingly tested.
A manufacturing powerhouse and an increasingly important player in global supply chains, Vietnam played host to both U.S. President Joe Biden and the leader of rival China, Xi Jinping, in 2023.
The visit was important for Hanoi on a diplomatic level, said Gould-Davies, the former ambassador.
“Perhaps for Vietnam it’s a matter of just showing that it’s able to maintain this very agile balance of its bamboo diplomacy,” he said. “Already in the course of a year they’ve hosted visits by the heads of state of the three most powerful countries in the world, which is pretty impressive."
Similarly, for Russia the visit seems to have been more about optics than anything else, he said, as Moscow seeks to engage and influence other countries, particularly in the so-called Global South.