Biden Will Support Regional States Against Turkey but Will Expect Them to Also Turn Against Russia
On Saturday, the Associated Press announced Joe Biden the winner of the 2020 U.S. Presidential Elections. Although this has not been officially confirmed, especially as Donald Trump is refusing to concede defeat, the Associated Press boasts that they were 99.8% accurate in calling U.S. races in 2016 and 100% accurate in calling presidential and congressional races for each state.
World leaders, including Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu, Canada’s Justin Trudeau, Australia’s Scott Morrison, South Korea’s Moon Jae-in and Britain’s Boris Johnson, sent their congratulations to Biden on being elected to become the 46th President of the United States of America. However, one notable world leader was silent, and for good reason, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
Erdoğan always had cordial relations with the U.S., including when Biden was Vice President to Barack Obama. But it was under Trump that the Turkish President became increasingly emboldened to act unilaterally and more aggressively. Although it was under Obama’s watch that the Erdoğan family were involved in blood oil trade with ISIS when they controlled Syrian and Iraqi oil wells between 2014 and 2016, Turkish aggression was primarily aimed against the Kurds, whether in Turkey, Syria or Iraq.
However, under Trump’s administration, Erdoğan became so emboldened that he established a Syrian mercenary army that has been dispatched to Libya and Azerbaijan, continues attempts to redraw the map of the East Mediterranean at Greece’s and Cyprus’ expense, broke two United Nations resolutions by opening the beach of Varoshia in occupied northern Cyprus, converted the Hagia Sophia into a mosque, and among many other things too, also hosted Hamas terrorist leaders in Turkey.
In fact, according to the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) that Trump himself signed into law on August 2, 2017, Turkey should be sanctioned by Washington for purchasing the Russian-made S-400 missile defense system and for state-owned Halkbank helping Iran evade sanctions. Trump’s former National Security Adviser John Bolton described the relationship between the American and Turkish president’s as a “bromance.” In fact, Trump never really hid away from this either, often describing Erdoğan as “a friend” and “very good.”
Following the money, it is easy to see why Trump often praised Erdoğan and directly intervened in the justice system in an attempt to prevent legal action against Halkbank. That paper trail goes directly to the Trump Towers in Istanbul, the first of Trump’s iconic towers on the European continent.
It is also partly for this reason that in the months leading up to the elections, officials of Erdoğan’s government verbally bashed the Democrats, including Biden. Erdoğan’s spokesperson, İbrahim Kalın, said on Twitter on August 16 “The analysis of Turkey by Joe Biden is based on pure ignorance, arrogance and hypocrisy. The days of ordering Turkey around are over. But if you still think you can try, be our guest. You will pay the price.” This was followed on September 25 with Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu saying on Twitter that Democratic Nancy Pelosi’s “rise to become Speaker of the House is what is truly worrisome for American democracy, given her blatant ignorance. You will learn to respect the Turkish people’s will,” before having the audacity to tag Trump in the same tweet.
Last week however, Çavuşoğlu had completely changed his language when it became more apparent that Biden would win the election, saying “Regardless of which candidate takes office in the U.S., we will pursue a sincere approach to improve our relations.”
Things may not be that simple though for Turkey. To help secure voting blocs, Biden directly appealed to the Armenian and Greek communities in the U.S., promising to not only recognize the genocide perpetrated by Turkey in the 20th century, but to directly deal with Erdoğan’s increasing militarism.
A Biden administration will likely escalate hostilities between the U.S. and Russia. With this, it is likely that Biden will sanction Turkey for procuring the S-400 system. Biden has also repeatedly expressed that he supports the political opposition in Turkey and will back them against Erdoğan if he becomes president. It is with little surprise that Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, leader of the main opposition party, congratulated Biden on his victory on Saturday on Twitter.
“I look forward to strengthening Turkish-American relations and our strategic alliance,” he added in the tweet.
There is no doubt that Biden will be tougher against Erdoğan than both Trump and Obama, however it is likely that Biden will attempt to push Athens into scaling back its growing relations with Moscow in exchange for his personal intervention in opposing Turkish aggression against Greece. Although Greek-Russian relations reached a historical low under the previous government, the current government that came into power last year has accelerated the restoration of ties, with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov visiting Athens as recently as last month.
In addition, Biden in 2014 became the first U.S. Vice President to ever visit Cyprus. As president, he will be the only one to have actually been to the island. Biden, unlike any other former president, has seen the situation and reality of Turkey’s occupation of northern Cyprus. The Trump administration is currently pressuring Cyprus to sever its ties with Russia, something that leaders in Nicosia have insisted they will not do. Biden will likely continue this policy.
Because a Biden presidency will be more confrontational against Erdoğan, this will help create immediate remedies to end Turkish aggression against Greece and Cyprus, as well as the Turkish-sponsored invasion attempt of Artsakh, or more commonly known as Nagorno-Karabakh. However, concessions will likely have to be made so that it could be aimed against Russia.
Although Greece, Cyprus and Armenia need immediate relief from Turkish militarism, the potential long-term repercussions of how this is achieved could have a far greater destabilizing impact on the region if it comes at the price of these countries severing ties with Moscow. By turning against Moscow, these countries will become platforms to oppose Russian influence and interests in the region which will have destabilizing effects.
Erdoğan’s main opposition has already announced that they will strengthen U.S.-Turkish relations if they succeed in the next elections. Erdoğan, who acts unpredictably and mostly unilaterally, is increasingly becoming uncontrollable for Washington. A potential backing of Kılıçdaroğlu by Biden would also be aimed against Russia as it would bring Turkey fully back into the NATO-fold. Therefore, although Biden will likely deal with Erdoğan by supporting Greece, Cyprus, Armenia, the Kurds and the Turkish political opposition, this is in the effort to unify these players to then turn against Moscow.