Bobby Ghosh in Bloomberg predicts three consequences of Erdogan’s likely victory in Sunday’s run-off: that Turkey will continue to move away from the West, that its economy will keep spiraling downward, and most importantly—that “the US foreign-policy establishment will recommend that Washington seek accommodation with Ankara, arguing that this would be better than five more years of acrimony.”
“President Joe Biden’s administration should follow the logic of the first two certainties to reject the reasoning of the third. Rather than rush to conciliate Erdogan, it should dial up economic and diplomatic pressure until he is ready to reset US-Turkish relations.”
Ghosh goes on to remind Washington that change from Turkey’s leader is unlikely—he is still claiming he will cut interest rates and nurture his “special” relationship with Russia, refusing to enforce sanctions against Russia.
“It is Erdogan’s approach to foreign policy that has been conspicuously lacking in balance. While building that special relationship with Putin over several years, he has alienated Turkey from its North Atlantic Treaty Organization partners and endangered the alliance’s defenses — most provocatively by purchasing Russian S-400 missile defense systems. He has also antagonized his country’s major trading partners in Europe by threatening to unleash a flood of refugees across Turkey’s western borders.
“Throughout the current election campaign, he and other leaders of his Justice and Development Party have blamed the West, and especially at the US, for much of what ails Turkey today.
Optimists will point out that Erdogan has been known to execute sharp reversions in foreign policy”—most recently with Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Israel.
But Ghosh points out this pivot was not the result of these countries’ placation of the Turkish president—quite the opposite, they were prompted by Erdogan’s economic and diplomatic desperation.
“The lesson from these U-turns for the Biden administration is that in dealing with a truculent Turkey, it pays to wait.
“It is hard to know what combination of factors will force Erdogan to seek a reset with the West, but two elements are essential. One is that Turkey will need to reach a level of economic crisis from which even Erdogan’s Arab friends can’t extricate him. The other is that Russia’s conduct in the war in Ukraine makes his special relationship with Putin a liability.
“The Biden administration need do little about the first: Erdogan can be counted upon to push the Turkish economy deeper into the hole he has created, and the Arab petrostates will not long extend his rope. As President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi of Egypt could attest, the Saudis and Emiratis are no longer serving unlimited bailouts.
“As for the second, the Biden administration and the Western alliance have been steadfast in backing Ukraine to repel the Russian invasion. The more reversals Putin suffers on the battlefield, the less special his friendship will feel to Erdogan. In the meantime, Washington should maintain pressure on Ankara to stop allowing Moscow access to sanctioned goods. The threat of punitive measures is having some effect: Turkey has recently blocked the transit of some shipments.
“If Erdogan wins the runoff on Sunday as expected, the theme of his acceptance speech will be that Turkey is not for turning. Biden should signal that neither is the US.”
This article is summarized from one originally published by Bloomberg.
The views and opinions expressed are the author’s and do not reflect those of the Free Turkish Press.