The USS Halyburton, a guided missile frigate that the U.S. Congress refused to give to Turkey. (photo: U.S. Navy)
The U.S. Congress has approved the handover of some leftover naval vessels to allies, pointedly excluding Turkey from the list of recipients.
In late December, the U.S. finally approved the long-delayed handover of six naval frigates to Mexico and Taiwan. But the bill passed Congress only after Turkey (along with Pakistan and Thailand) were eliminated as potential recipients, for a variety of political reasons.
In the 2012 version of the "Naval Transfer Act," Turkey was to receive two Oliver Hazard Perry class guided missile frigates, the USS Halyburton and the USS Thach, which are being decommissioned by the U.S. Navy.
But the inclusion of Turkey proved controversial, as members of Congress pointed out Turkey's increasingly hostile stance toward Israel and its threats against natural gas exploration by American companies near Cyprus. "I believe we should hold off on sending powerful warships to Turkey and encourage the government in Ankara to take a less belligerent approach to their neighbors," said Representative Eliot Engel during that debate.
That bill was ultimately defeated, and an alliance of Greek, Jewish, and Armenian lobbying groups took credit. But the defeat was only a symbolic one, says Can Devrim Yaylali, a Turkish naval blogger, who notes that the frigates in question were significantly more poorly equipped than the ships Turkey currently operates (including those of the same class) and could only have been cannibalized for spare parts.
"The lack of these frigates will not have any effect on the Turkish Navy at all from a technical point of view," Yaylali tells The Bug Pit. "If the US lawmakers tried to give some kind of a signal to the Turkish government by not adding Turkey to the list of the nations that may get a frigate is beyond my understanding. But if they did; the message was not delivered as the medium is not the correct one."