Security concerns to continue shaping U.S.-Turkey relations-analyst

U.S.-Turkey relations will likely be shaped by the security sector, not statements about the past, Marc Pierini, a visiting scholar at Carnegie Europe, wrote on Tuesday.

U.S. President Joe Biden on Saturday recognised the Armenian genocide, becoming the first U.S. president since 1981 to use the controversial term in reference to the killings of 1.5 million Armenians by the Ottoman Empire during WWI.

The Turkish government and opposition strongly condemned the recognition of the genocide. Ankara acknowledges that deaths occurred, but rejects any systemic or organised effort, and the use of the term “genocide”.

“The outrage over Biden’s statement might be brief or long-lasting”, said Pierini, adding “but Turkey will not change its position and dealing with one’s past is an immensely complex process, which can only be done by the leaders and citizens of a given country”.

Pierini said that Turkey’s strong reaction will not change the official views of the United States, many European states, or Russia over the Armenian genocide.

Moreover, on April 26, Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan signalled a willingness to move on saying, “we now need to put aside our disagreements and look at what steps we can take from now on”.

Ömer Taşpınar, a Turkish professor at the National War College, claimed that the Turkish government was aware that Biden would use the term genocide and asked his administration to avoid any denunciatory term in the text. “Turkey is afraid of the economy, as always. It is afraid of lawsuits including the Halkbank case,” Taşpınar said.

Pierini suggested a tacit agreement to disagree acknowledgment which is probably the best off-ramp.

“The central issue is the new situation created for the United States, for Europe, and for NATO as a whole, by Turkey’s deployment of Russian-made S400 missiles”.

The S400 purchase has provided Russia with three major strategic benefits, according to Pierini.

“First, it prevents a permanent deployment of U.S.-made Patriot missiles on its southern flank,” Pierini said.

“Second, it eliminates the prospect of seeing up to 120 F35 stealth aircraft deployed by Turkey—one hundred F35 on land bases, twenty F35b on the Anadolu helicopter carrier—which would have constituted an ominous challenge on its southern flank,” Pierini added.

“And third, it obliges NATO to reconsider its missile defense architecture, with Turkey’s air force being split between conventional units linked to NATO and missile defense units linked, in one way or another, to Russia”.

Turkey’s removal from the advanced stealth fighters programme will affect “the country’s standing as a military power and as a high-technology center,” the analyst said.

“Viewed from a Western European and American security perspective, this new situation inevitably creates a significant loss of trust in Turkey, which is a major NATO partner,” Pierini wrote.

“With its historical narrative being challenged as much as its strategic relationship with NATO, Ankara will need to find some rapprochement with a U.S. administration that puts principles and strategic issues so high up on its agenda,” he said.