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Post A New Era in US-Turkish Relations? No Easy Path
Created by John Eipper on 06/14/21 3:49 AM

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A New Era in US-Turkish Relations? No Easy Path (Yusuf Kanli, Turkey, 06/14/21 3:49 am)

Months after he was elected and took office, on the sideline of a NATO summit, the new American President Joe Biden finally is to meet today (June 14th) with the Turkish leader. According to some analysts, the meeting could serve as a "wedding renewal" event for the two countries. God bless them.

We have had a boat-trip like relationship between Turkey and the US for a long time, a boat traveling from one crisis to another. Before one crisis is over, the next one begins. This has become the classic situation since the second half of 1960s, mostly because of the Cyprus or Turkish-Greek issues.

Since the final years of George Bush and particularly since the era of Barack Obama, when the US approach to the Kurdish issue and its cooperation against terrorism altered drastically, ties have been particularly fractured, crises have intensified and it took more time and greater energy to overcome them, yet each time permanent scars remained. Perhaps the most important reason for this situation is that Turkey lost its most solid ally in the American capital, the Pentagon, for the first time, starting with the March 1st crisis in 2003 when the Turkish parliament refused to endorse the government's arrangements with the US to open a new front through Turkey in the American war on Iraq.

There's another big reason. Of course, it's impossible to attribute the present situation to one event. Since coming to power in Ankara, the Justice and Development Party has seen a harsh rhetoric in relations with Israel as a solution or distraction, for a variety of reasons, whenever it encountered a domestic problem. Strained relations between Israel and Turkey continued to deteriorate for a period but it was not until the Davos "One minute" crisis in January 2009 for them to become totally devastated.  Telling Shimon Peres, "You know well how to kill people" received temporary applause on the Arab street but produced a long-lasting rupture in Turkish ties with Israel. Thus Turkey, which also lost the support of the Jewish lobby after this incident, began to suffer more damage in its relations with the United States. Biden's support of the Armenian genocide claims in his ill-fated April 24 speech this year, as well as the timing of calling Erdogan the day before and making the June 14 appointment, would not have been possible if Turkey had not been so alone in Washington.

Has anything changed? The outcome of the meeting will naturally be revealed by improvements in relations over time, if any improvements result at all. It is not immediately clear what concessions are desired, given or received in bilateral issues, the economy, or defense cooperation, but perhaps most importantly in the Kurdish issue, freedom of expression and press matters, minority rights, Turkey's overall democratization issues as well as issues related to the European Union, especially Greece, Cyprus, the eastern Mediterranean and of course Turkey's Libya and Syria policies--and military presence.

Unfortunately, the fragility of Turkey's economy has been tried many times with the brutal economic-financial attacks implemented under Donald Trump. Now Turkey is once again in a similar economic crisis and  the only guarantee that Biden will not use this weakness as a weapon is because he is believed to be against such wild heinous and Machiavellian businessman tactics like his predecessor. Nevertheless, it should always be remembered that there is an American imperial mindset that places American interests before everything else.

There are high expectations that there will be an "intermediate formula" on the S 400 issue. Although our "friend" Vladimir Putin is not frequently talked with lately, it is unlikely that a way out might be within reach, as all along the US has been against an "intermediate formula" whatever that might be, including storing the system in a depot.

Although the issue of Reza Sarraf and a probable fine imposed on Halkbank have been postponed for some time, naturally it is a very important big trump card held by the United States. In particular, it is possible for the United States to take the economic war to the next level with a serious financial penalty. Did this interview solve this? Why did the court adjourn the Halkbank matter last month? Would it be too much to say that an interesting negotiation took place behind the scenes?

Surely, in order for a new era in relations with both the United States and the Western world to begin, Turkey must first return to the democratization and reform process. Turkey-US relations, or rather, Turkey-Western world relations are no longer in a situation or improved through a single meeting. The problems are structural and ideological.

In short, there may be desire, but the problems are so arduous that opening a new era in Turkish-US relations requires much more effort than a leaders' summit.

JE comments:  A sincere thanks to Yusuf Kanli for keeping us apprised of the immensely complex US-Turkish relationship.  Strategic allies or frenemies?  My answer would be "yes." 

Biden crossed a line with Turkey when he used the "G-word" (genocide) regarding Armenia, but at the same time Erdogan needs to come out of the summit with some specific "wins," especially with the economy.  Yusuf, please send a followup on the Biden-Erdogan meeting/showdown, which may be happening at this very moment.

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