In his pre-election speech, President Joe Biden proclaimed that the role of the United States is to defend freedom and democracy and that NATO is the bulwark of the liberal democratic ideal: an alliance of values.
This was clearly demonstrated by two events. First, when the United States took the initiative at the recent meeting of NATO and non-NATO countries at Ramstein Air Base in Germany. Second, when Congress voted overwhelmingly in favor of the Ukrainian Democracy Defense Lend-Lease Act of 2022 and Biden signed it.
Biden didn’t hide anything about it. Much to Turkey’s chagrin, on Armenian Remembrance Day (April 24), Biden commemorated the one and a half million Armenians who were deported, massacred or marched to their deaths during the Ottoman-era genocide.
In April, the State Department released a comprehensive ninety-three page report on human rights abuses in Turkey under the AKP (Justice and Development Party) government of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and the subjugation of the rule of law to politics.
Sanctions have already been imposed on Turkey over its purchase of the Russian S-400 missile defense system and it was removed from the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program for the same reason. Therefore, it is incomprehensible for the State Department to claim that there are compelling long-term NATO interests supporting the sale of forty F-16 fighter jets and nearly eighty modernization kits to Turkey.
Such a decision runs counter to US strategy in the region. When Secretary of State Antony Blinken calls for the sale to be expedited, there is total confusion. The United States has already thanked Turkey for its role in the Trevor Reed prisoner exchange, but there is no need to get carried away with the afterglow.
As for Ukraine, Turkey tried to have their cake and eat it too. He passed the UN resolution condemning the Russian invasion and blocked the Bosphorus from returning Russian warships to the Black Sea. It also closed its airspace to military transport to Syria. But Turkey’s attempts to mediate between Russia and Ukraine were unsuccessful.
However, the idea of some members of Congress to condition the sale of F-16s on Turkey’s support for Ukraine is in the realm of wishful thinking. As Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Menendez made it clear, “I think the administration needs to stop seeing what we would like Turkey to be and realize that Turkey is under Erdogan.
Turkey depends on Russia for trade, gas, the construction of a nuclear power plant and for its occupation of various parts of Syria. It also bases its hopes for a record tourist season on the influx of Russian tourists. For example, Turkish Airlines has allocated 1.5 million seats to Russians. At the same time, Russian oligarchs are flocking to Turkey to fill their depleted coffers.
Turkey is therefore unlikely to rock this boat.
Facing next year’s elections, Turkey’s Erdogan is groggy and a man on the ropes. His approval rating has fallen to 42% and 59% of Turks don’t think he can solve the country’s financial problems. This figure rises to more than 90% among supporters of opposition parties.
This has resulted in conciliatory moves from Erdogan towards former rivals such as Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Israel. For example, during a visit to Riyadh, Erdogan kissed Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, whom he had previously accused of being behind the massacre of dissident Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul.
Steven A. Cook, in an incisive analysis of the Middle East’s “kumbaya moment”, found in the visit “the geopolitical version of hats in hand in hopes of investment from huge Gulf sovereign wealth funds”.
The Israelis are not easily fooled either. Herb Keinon called on the “real Erdogan to please stand up”.
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Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Victoria Nuland called Turkey’s violations and flights over the Greek islands “provocative”. Athens recorded 168 airspace violations and forty-two illegal overflights in a single day in April.
Also in April, Turkey carried out maneuvers involving 122 ships and forty-one aircraft in support of its “Blue Homeland” maritime doctrine. Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar addressed the commanders and said Turkey always stands for good neighborly relations and wants to resolve current disputes through peaceful means and methods.
He also claimed that Greece had armed sixteen of its twenty-three Aegean islands in violation of international agreements and called for dialogue. “Our goal is to share all the riches of the Aegean Sea equally, and the Aegean Sea is a sea of friendship.”
Commenting on Washington’s ‘nutty’ deal with Turkey to fight ISIS, columnist Conn Hallinan concluded: ‘Anyone who believes ‘moderates’ will take over should consider unicorn hunting a profession. . The same goes for anyone who thinks Turkey will abandon its close relationship with Russia in favor of the NATO line.
Robert Ellis is an international advisor at RIEAS (Research Institute for European and American Studies) in Athens.