Recep Tayyip Erdogan needs help. The Turkish economy is in crisis, and foreign policy partners are scarce. The savior in need is now said to be US President Joe Biden, who has criticized his fellow Turk as an autocrat and has kept him away since taking office in January.
On Monday, the two presidents will meet for their first in-person meeting as heads of state. Erdogan hopes to start a “new era” between the two NATO partners. But the road is blocked due to many differences between Ankara and Washington.
However, Erdogan has high expectations from the talks on the sidelines of the NATO summit in Brussels. He has expressed several times in the past few weeks his desire to have good relations with the United States. But just a few months ago it looked completely different. In February, the Turkish president accused the Americans of “supporting terrorism” because the United States is working with the Kurdish People’s Protection Units, the Syrian branch of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, in Syria.
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He also complained at that time about the US authorities’ refusal to extradite the US-based Islamic preacher Fethullah Gulen to Turkey. Erdogan sees Gulen as the mastermind of the 2016 coup attempt, but the United States says Turkey has not provided any evidence to support it.
There is also disagreement over the delivery of the Russian S-400 air defense system to Turkey. NATO and the United States say Ankara is a disgrace to NATO. The United States does not want to supply Turkey with modern F-35 fighter jets because of the S-400, although Ankara was involved in the development of the aircraft. The Biden government also criticizes Erdogan’s authoritarianism.
Turkey scares investors
The ongoing crisis in relations with the United States is exacerbating Turkey’s economic crisis by scaring off investors. Similar to the relationship with the European Union, which Erdogan has been trying to normalize for six months, Ankara has been sending conciliatory signals to Washington for some time.
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Even when in April Biden became the first US president to describe the massacre of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire as a genocide and thus pitted the Turks against the United States, reactions from Ankara remained very cautious.
Shortly before meeting with Biden, Erdogan’s government offered the United States that Turkey could militarily secure the capital’s airport, Kabul, after the withdrawal of Western forces from Afghanistan. In this way, Turkey wants to show that it is valuable to the West.
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In Brussels, Erdogan wanted to dispel the impression that there was no dialogue between Turkey and the Biden government, columnist Sedat Ergen wrote in the Hurriyet newspaper. Erdogan also hopes to establish a good personal relationship with Biden, whom he has known for years.
Since progress in terms of content in various problem areas is unlikely, positive symbolism is most important for the Turkish president. Ergin believes that the harmonious meeting will send an important signal to international investors. President Erdogan needs one thing above all in Brussels: a “success story”.