Ankara-Washington rift solidifying

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Turkey has managed to become one of the most obnoxious countries in the eyes of the U.S. foreign policy establishment. Even to the Pentagon, traditionally one of Ankara’s greatest backers.

There are many reasons for this. The acquisition of Russia’s S-400 anti-aircraft system is obviously at the top, along with Turkey’s treatment of the Kurds and attitude toward ISIS.

Ankara is still considered a global geopolitical player, if one that continually causes turbulence. U.S. analysts believe, for example, that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan tried to torpedo the agreements between Israel and the United Arab Emirates made under the Trump administration by pushing Hamas and Hezbollah to harden their positions so as to cause a crisis and make Israel’s rapprochement with the Arab countries impossible. Their view is that Erdoğan nowadays considers himself the equal of Joe Biden or Vladimir Putin and uses the Palestinian issue as his own trump card in his negotiations with the West.

Turkey’s breach with the Americans is deep and could well become permanent. Biden administration officials believe that both Obama’s and Trump’s kid-glove treatment of Erdoğan gave the Turkish leader the impression that he can behave in a more authoritarian way and plunge into adventures without cost. The recognition by the U.S. of the Armenian genocide was a clear and unambiguous message that “enough is enough.” A U.S. official said that his country was sending the message that similar behaviour will not be tolerated in the future. Ankara found itself without allies when the debate on recognition was going on, a very impressive thing for those who had lived through similar tussles in the past. The great irony is that for decades Turkey has been building a very powerful lobby with the help of Israeli diplomats and experts. However, now there is also a deep breach with Israel, which will be very difficult to heal. Especially as long as two mortal enemies such as Benjamin Netanyahu and Erdogan remain in power. Turkey has lost its support at the same time that Greece has been strengthening its own, despite the gaping lack of sufficient public diplomacy and the anaemic – with a few bright spots as the exemption – situation of the Greek-American lobby.

That is what is happening in the U.S. By contrast, in Europe, and especially in Brussels, officials in key positions keep analysing Turkey through an outdated prism. Indeed some, such as the head of EU diplomacy, Josep Borrell, keep justifying and rationalising every faux pas by Ankara while at the same time wondering why Athens looks across the Atlantic for support.

(A version of this article was originally published by the Kathimerini newspaper and is reproduced by permission).

Ahval

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