U.S. President-elect Joe Biden should turn over a new leaf in relations with Turkey to help contain Russia and revitalise the transatlantic alliance, said Burhanettin Duran, the general coordinator of the Foundation for Political, Economic and Social Research (SETA).
Biden is expected to oversee foreign policy personally and experts say that he will pursue closer ties with Europe to deal with Russia, Duran said in a column for Turkey’s Daily Sabah newspaper on Monday. The same is expected in the Middle East, he said.
Duran pointed to NATO member Turkey’s “heavyweight” role in the region, where it both cooperates and competes with Russia, in places such as Libya, Syria and over the disputed enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh, on the borders of Armenia and Azerbaijan in Central Asia.
“Turkey, a leading NATO ally, balances out the Russian influence in Libya, Syria and Nagorno-Karabakh,” he said. “At the same time, the country can play a constructive role, as the Western alliance, which the Biden administration will attempt to restore, seeks to compete with Moscow.”
SETA is an Ankara-based research company that makes policy recommendations. It is known for its close relations with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government.
Duran said critics of Turkey, who have pointed to its closer relations with Moscow and its purchase of the Russia S-400 air defence system, must take account of Turkey’s critical importance.
“Moving forward, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin since 2015 could be viewed as an advantage,” he said.
Duran said the initial message from the incoming Biden administration has been quite positive. Biden’s foreign policy adviser Michael Carpenter has already said that the administration does not plan devastating economic sanctions against Turkey for its purchase of the S-400s, which signifies a promising start, he said.
Erdoğan has also stressed the strategic relationship between the United States and Turkey in a letter of congratulation to Biden.
“The S-400 issue will initially put to test the bilateral relationship,” Duran said. “To make the most out of the next four years, the international system will move toward a new geopolitical equilibrium, and Washington and Ankara must turn over a fresh leaf.”