Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan hoped to meet with US President Joe Biden during his trip last month to New York City to attend the United Nations General Assembly. Despite the fact that the Turkish Foreign Ministry mobilised all their efforts to realise that hope, the meeting did not take place and Erdoğan left the US deeply disappointed.
The Erdoğan regime,which used to rely on the US whenever it got ‘stuck,’ has repeatedly implemented this approach like former Turkish governments, but his efforts have not worked for a long time.
There are two main reasons for such failure. The first one is: Biden’s foreign policy and security team, consisting of experts, who served during the Obama administration, do not personally like Erdoğan, and do not consider him to be a reliable partner.
The second one is: The same team believes that the Middle East is a cause of significant political cost to the US and the Middle East should be moved away from the centre of US foreign policy.
But at this point, the main concern of the US is that, in case of a withdrawal from the Middle East, it might mean that the influence of China, Russia and Iran would automatically increase in the region. Such a situation will inevitably lead to a significant weakening of its global influence.
The dilemma of the US emerges right at this point. The US administration wants to give priority to the Asia-Pacific and South America, but also worries that the power gap in the region would be quickly filled by its rivals.
Looking at things from this perspective, we can better grasp the reason why the US administration remains so distant from the Erdoğan regime. The US administration feels anger towards Erdoğan. Although they have invested in Erdoğan and Turkey for years, Turkey still cannot be considered as a ‘reliable partner’ in the region.
However, if Turkey behaved like a NATO member for years, the US could have withdrawn from the region easily and spent its energy in balancing the power of China in the Asia-Pacific. But the US administration knows very well that if its influence decreases in the Middle East, Russia and China will fill in this ‘power gap,’ with Turkey’s assistance. Knowing this causes deep disappointment and anger against Erdoğan.
Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates being included in ‘developing relations’ with Egypt, Israel, Greece and Cyprus is a positive development for the US. On the other hand, the increasingly close relationship between Turkey and Russia in recent years, tensions between the above mentioned countries and Turkey and Turkey’s active stance in support of Russia and Iran in Syria make it difficult for the US to establish a ‘fresh’ Middle East policy.
The main concern of the Biden presidency is encirclement by China in the Middle East while trying to balance China in the Pacific. Biden’s foreign policy team believes that ongoing conflicts and the presence of authoritarian regimes in the region increases Russia’s and China’s regional power.
Therefore, the new US administration, unlike Trump, wants a adopt a perspective in the Middle East based on democratisation and human rights. That is why the Erdoğan regime opposes them.
Evaluating ‘Turkey-US relations’ within this perspective may help us to see that it’s not all about personalised issues between Biden and Erdoğan. The tensions between Erdoğan and Biden go beyond a simple dislike of each other, and therefore, cannot be overcome easily.
Turkey, under the rule of Erdoğan, presents a more backward, more despotic image and it seemingly looks closer to Russia and China than towards buttressing Western hegemony. However, both Russia and China are trying to expand their hegemony through despotic regimes both in the Middle East and all over the world.
Therefore, the problem here goes beyond the classical recitation that anti-imperialism is about opposing the US and the West. If you want a more just world, the way to achieve this is to lean on people and to strengthen their will to democracy and freedom.
At this point, we are neither in the position of opponents nor supporters. Our main concern should be to expand democracy and freedom in our country, in Kurdistan and in the Middle East, and to defeat the regional obscurantism that emerged in the person of Erdoğan.