Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan will need to clean up his act or continue to get the cold shoulder from U.S. President Joe Biden, Foreign Policy magazine said on Wednesday.
Biden’s stance on Turkey – post-inauguration phone calls to world leaders have excluded Erdoğan – reflects a new tougher U.S. tone towards the NATO ally, Foreign Policy said, citing interviews with over a dozen officials, lawmakers and other experts.
“The relationship is very challenged, and we are not in a position where we can rely on Turkey in the same way that we’ve relied on, or that we feel confident that we can rely on, other NATO allies,” said Abigail Spanberger, a Democrat who serves on the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
Few good solutions exist to stop ties from worsening, even after phone calls between less senior U.S. officials and their Turkish counterparts. There are also few policy options for Biden aside from continuing to pressure Erdoğan on human rights, Foreign Policy said.
At the heart of discord between the two governments is Turkey’s aggressive foreign policy approach, which creates a potential crisis in waiting for the United States, according to Foreign Policy. Erdoğan has tied himself politically to Russian President Vladimir Putin by acquiring S-400 air defence missiles from Moscow and he is at loggerheads with Washington over his policies towards the Middle East, the Mediterranean and North Africa.
Biden is no stranger to Erdoğan as he dealt with the Turkish president as deputy to former U.S. President Barack Obama, when he accused him of authoritarianism.
“This is the second rodeo for most of the people in the Biden administration,” said Aaron Stein, director of research at the Foreign Policy Research Institute. “I find that most people are sick of it. Everyone comes in clear-eyed that this isn’t going well, but the ball is in Ankara’s court.”
With an eye on relations with the United States, Erdoğan announced a package of human rights reforms to EU diplomats this week that included pledges to respect freedom of expression, with certain conditions, and to strengthen the judiciary and rule of law. But the announcement left human rights defenders unimpressed after a swathe of human rights abuses.
Speaking to Foreign Policy, the Turkish embassy in Washington said Ankara attaches “the utmost importance” to relations with the United States and will work to strengthen ties.
“The S-400 procurement does not signify in any way a strategic change of course for Turkey. Turkey continues to be a responsible and reliable member of NATO,” the embassy said. “For over two years, Turkey has been proposing to establish a working group with the inclusion of NATO, to address concerns regarding the S-400s.”
Congress has urged the White House to impose sanctions on Turkey for its acquisition of the missiles. The Pentagon has called on the Turkish government to abandon them and to cancel plans for the purchase of more.