No reset with U.S. until Erdoğan abandons autocracy, analyst says

Turkey is never going to have a great relationship with the United States so long as President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan continues to behave autocratically and fails to alter his foreign policy, said Nicholas Danforth of the Hellenic Foundation for European and Foreign Policy (ELIAMEP).

Danforth, a non-resident senior research fellow at ELIAMEP, spoke after 45 minutes of talks between Erdoğan and U.S. President Joe Biden at a summit of NATO leaders in Brussels on Monday.

“Any U.S. Turkish interaction that does not create new crisis, we should take that as a win,” Danforth told Ahval editor-in-chief Yavuz Baydar in comments for Ahval’s Hot Pursuit podcast.

For Erdoğan, a positive image of the meeting is especially important. The Turkish leader is keen to free Turkey from U.S sanctions for its purchase of Russian S-400 air defence missiles in 2019 and to present a case to Biden that Turkey remains a critical ally of the United States.

“If Turkey expected a breakthrough in relations, this meeting showed Turkey that until there is a major change in Turkish foreign politics, there is not going to be a reset with the United States,” Danforth said.

“Erdoğan seems to be very eager to say that all problems between Turkey and the United States could be solved” while failing to compromise on key issues, Danforth said.

Erdoğan characterised the talks with Biden as "fruitful and sincere".

"We think that there are no issues between U.S. and Turkey relationship that are unsolvable and that areas of cooperation for us are richer and larger than problems," Erdogan said.

Danforth said that ties between the two countries were maintained during the Trump administration at the expense of any kind of institutionalised relationship.

“There is nothing wrong if Biden and Erdoğan are being able to have frank exchanges. They can develop an honest relationship which could actually complement institutional ties,” he said.

Danforth said that Biden may have brought up human right issues in Turkey during the meeting. But at the same time, the United States has its national interests at heart.

“I do not think that anyone on the U.S. side thinks that even if Biden brought up human rights during the meeting, it does not mean that that is going to be the only issue in U.S.-Turkish relations,” he said.

“Biden is being clear that Turkey is never going to have a great relationship with the United States as long as Erdoğan continues to behave in autocratic ways. However, that does not mean that Turkey has to leave NATO for not being democratic.”

Turkey, with NATO's second-largest standing army, has angered its allies in the Western military alliance by buying Russian S-400 surface-to-air missiles.

 “Erdoğan promised that he would cooperate against Russia. However, this has not convinced anyone in Washington that Turkey is actually the crucial ally that Washington needs in containing Russia today,” Danforth said.

“There is still hesitancy towards permanently alienating Turkey in order not to blow up relations, which would push Turkey to the Russian camp.”

This block is broken or missing. You may be missing content or you might need to enable the original module.