Biden's Meeting with Erdoğan in Brussels

Saturday, June 19, 2021  

If Joe Biden's meeting with Putin doesn't quite qualify as a summit in my books, the US president's meeting with Turkish president Tayyip Erdoğan was even shorter, as part of a broader meeting with NATO leaders in Brussels. 

All smiles for now...
The meeting was important, though. US relations with Turkey have been at various stages of rocky for years, with the months following the July, 2016 coup attempt (or coup attempt-like events) in Turkey constituting a real low point. It was at this time, in 2017, that Moscow offered to sell its S-400 missile defense system. In response to Ankara's purchase of the system, the US put sanctions on Turkey and will not sell it weaponry for now. 
So here again, like with regard to Russia, Biden is dealing with someone whose relations with Biden's predecessor were generally considered to have been good, yet who nevertheless ended the DJT presidency with quite strained relations with Washington. For their own individual reasons, both Erdoğan and Putin see it as in their interests to start things off with Biden on a positive note.  

While the US and Turkey are still not in agreement over what to do regarding Turkey's integration of the Russian operating system into its otherwise NATO-based equipment, they did apparently come to an accord regarding the basing of Turkish troops in Afghanistan. 

It's to American interests that Turkey do this. After the US pullout is complete, at least there will be some western power still there to act as peacekeepers. As a Muslim-majority country, Turkey is thought to have more credibility than, say, Poland. Nevertheless, it's a thankless job. And Erdoğan is already getting pushback for it from the opposition in Turkey.  

Well, with the Turkish economy in rough shape and the country's pandemic response bumpy, maybe having halfway-decent relations with the US for a while isn't such a bad idea. And maybe Washington can be convinced to provide support

“If they don’t want us to leave Afghanistan, if they want a (Turkish) support there, then the diplomatic, logistic and financial support that the United States will give us will of great importance,” Erdogan said

For most of Erdoğan's recent career, getting into public fights with foreign leaders has typically proven beneficial. It's interesting, though, that Erdoğan has been holding back vis-a-vis Biden. Part of it is communication. Even with Biden publicly using the word "genocide" to describe Ottoman actions in 1915, Erdoğan's response was subdued. It turns out Biden had called Erdoğan the day before. 

It goes to show what can happen. Even when the policy is bound to be unpopular, a little diplomacy can make things better. The other part of the equation is that Turkey might be needing help in the upcoming months and Erdoğan might like to have something other than conflicting interpretations of late Ottoman history to get angry over. 


Are you a Turk across empires? Order a copy today, then get another one for your library.

More commentary, photos, and links can be found in the Borderlands Lounge.    

No comments:

Post a Comment