Turkey stands to lose more than most from Biden Presidency - analysis

Washington could “pull the trigger” on long-threatened sanctions on Turkey if Joe Biden wins the United States’ Presidential election next month, Reuters journalist Jonathan Spicer said.

Biden is currently favoured to win the U.S. election, with FiveThirtyEight giving him an 88% chance of victory. Unless President Donald Trump causes another upset, as he did in 2016, it seems likely that the U.S. stance on Turkey’s military interventions in its region will toughen. 

Last week, Turkey tested its Russian-made S-400 missile defence system, which the U.S. says undermines NATO’s military capabilities. The test brought an angry response from the U.S. State Department and Pentagon, and both Republican and Democratic Senators called for sanctions in response.

Although Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan downplayed the possibility of a U.S. response to the test, he also threatened counter-sanctions if they did materialise.

Spicer said threats by the United States had “rung hollow since Moscow shipped the weapons to Ankara in mid-2019, largely because [President Donald] Trump has resisted punishing Erdoğan, with whom he has regular calls, saying he hopes talks will resolve the issue.”

Yet nothing has come of this disengaged U.S. diplomatic stance, and a general feeling that the United States is withdrawing from the Middle East has led countries including Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Iran to begin flexing their military muscles, leading to increased tensions between regional powers.

Writing for the New Arab, Stasa Salacanin said that Trump had “reduced US foreign policy to personal transactions.” However, Salacanin downplayed the optimism that Biden would simply reverse all of Trump’s foreign policy stances, saying that “there may well be no dramatic changes at all to US foreign policy in the Middle East.”

According to Spicer, “The lira, down 24% this year to all-time lows, already partly reflects the Biden risk.” Although the weakness of the Turkish lira is due to domestic issues, such as Turkey’s inflation rate and balance of payments deficit, the prospect of a Biden Presidency “has loomed in the background: the latest currency selloff began in July, when Biden’s near 10-point lead in polls solidified.”

However, analysts see Turkey’s role in NATO and its rivalry with Russia in its regional spheres of influence as a cap on possible sanctions that could be imposed. With the U.S. Senate set to pass a defence spending bill which includes sanctions against Turkey in December, Spicer says that the stage is set for the next U.S. President “to select mild or harsh sanctions next year.”