US and Turkey: It will not be over but

On October 31, US President Joe Biden and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan met on the margins of the G20 gathering in Rome, ending weeks of hypothesis about whether or not such a summit would happen. Earlier that month, a short-lived diplomatic disaster had demonstrated simply how strained ties between the 2 international locations are.

The US ambassador to Ankara David Satterfield and 9 different Western envoys had been threatened with expulsion after they referred to as for the discharge of jailed Turkish philanthropist Osman Kavala – an act the Turkish authorities perceived as meddling in its inside affairs.

Biden and Erdogan’s assembly – their second this yr – indicated that traces of communication are nonetheless open. But it can’t be denied that Turkish-American relations are at an all-time low.

From the Turkish facet, the notion that the US is an unreliable ally and is in actual fact in search of to undermine Ankara has been rising and feeding anti-Americanism over the previous 5 to 6 years. Washington’s determination in 2015 to arm Kurdish forces in Syria affiliated with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which Ankara – and its Western allies – take into account a “terrorist” organisation, and allegations of US involvement within the tried coup towards Erdogan’s authorities in 2016 have all fuelled this sentiment.

From the US perspective, Turkey’s determination to foster nearer ties with Russia has precipitated concern. The Turkish buy of Russian-made S-400 defence methods in 2017 despatched shockwaves by way of Washington, which has been cautious of Russia’s resurgence.

The supply of the superior weapons to Ankara in 2019 triggered sanctions towards Turkish officers below the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) a yr later. More importantly, it resulted in Turkey’s expulsion from the worldwide consortium behind the event of a brand new technology of fighter jets, the F-35. Erdogan’s current statements that the Turkish authorities is trying to purchase one other batch of S-400 surface-to-air missile methods additional incensed Washington.

So with all this stress between them, are Turkey and the US on the cusp of a breakup? Probably not. Neither Biden nor Erdogan is pushing for an entire decoupling. Indeed, the Turkish authorities is hoping to clinch a cope with the Biden administration for the acquisition of 40 F-16 fighter jets and 80 modernisation kits to improve older navy plane. Turkey is eager to deliver up-to-date its air power which is basically composed of F-16s. It can be eager to recoup the $1.4bn advance cost it made for the F-35 venture.

At a second when all its neighbours, from Greece to Russia to Iran, are upgrading their navy capabilities, Turkey can not afford to lag behind. For all the will to claim its strategic autonomy, Ankara continues to be reliant on Western navy know-how. It is likewise dedicated to NATO which, in an period of uncertainty and with Russia build up its navy power on the alternative shore of the Black Sea, stays central to nationwide safety.  No surprise, the vast majority of Turkish residents proceed to assist membership within the Alliance.

Its weakened home financial system and the quickly depreciating lira, which has misplaced 80 % of its worth over the previous decade, additionally spotlight Turkish dependence on worldwide monetary markets. A divorce state of affairs with the US is not going to augur nicely for financial stability. Had the ambassadors been expelled and had a full-blown disaster with the West ensued, international traders would have disposed of lira-denominated belongings en masse, sending the foreign money in free fall.

The US additionally nonetheless wants, within the phrases of State Secretary Anthony Blinken, its “so-called strategic ally”. The Turkish navy stays key for NATO’s jap flank the place Russia poses a formidable problem. Turkey’s sale of Bayraktar TB2 drones to Ukraine, now deployed towards the pro-Russian separatists on the battlefront within the Donbas, demonstrates its strategic worth.

Ankara has additionally supported all NATO initiatives geared toward reassuring allies within the Black Sea, together with common workout routines and rotation of naval ships from the US and different member states of the pact. Last however not least, Turkey’s function within the Middle East and North Africa, notably in Libya the place it competes with Russia and in Syria, is one more reason for Washington to not stonewall Ankara. The identical is true of Afghanistan the place Ankara has not let go of plans to play a task in securing Kabul airport.

US and Turkey are working in a gray zone. The alliance is hanging by a thread, however it’s too early to pronounce its demise. Transactionalism is the order of the day and it’s seemingly the 2 sides will work on an issue-by-issue foundation.

Biden and Erdogan will, subsequently, be capable to cooperate in restricted methods in NATO. A deal on the F-16s will not be unlikely both, regardless of opposition in Congress. The US is not going to be rattled by a brand new Turkish operation in Syria both if the deconfliction rules established between the 2 militaries on the bottom maintain. Yet it could proceed to look at warily Turkey’s engagement with Russia and, more and more, China. Biden might be extra outspoken on Turkish home politics too, in contrast to Trump. There is certain to be extra friction sooner or later.

The views expressed on this article are the writer’s personal and don’t essentially replicate Al Jazeera’s editorial stance.

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