Biden likely to take tougher stance on U.S.-Turkey relations - analyst

A Joe Biden presidency in the United States will likely see Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan face tougher action over issues Donald Trump failed to tackle, analyst Aykan Erdemir said on Thursday.

President Trump formed a close personal relationship with Erdoğan, resulting in little consequence over multiple flashpoints, but “a rupture may be imminent if Erdoğan continues his provocations with a less forgiving chief executive in the White House,” Erdemir said in an article for Balkan Insight. 

Erdemir said Biden is more likely to impose sanctions on Turkey for purchasing the Russian-made S-400 missile defence system and pursuing “gunboat diplomacy” in its dispute with Greece and Cyprus over natural gas reserves in the eastern Mediterranean.

Biden may similarly invoke sanctions over Ankara’s policy of imprisoning foreign nationals in return for “concessions from Turkey’s Western counterparts,” he said.

The U.S. president-elect is also unlikely to interfere in the case brought by public prosecutors in New York against state-owned Turkish lender Halkbank for evading sanctions on Iran, Erdemir said. Last month, the Trump administration was reported to have sought a lenient settlement for figures close to Erdoğan.

And Biden’s pro-Kurdish sympathies mean he will take a stronger stance against Turkey’s interventions in northeast Syria, Erdemir said. Last October, Trump ordered the partial withdrawal of U.S. troops from the region, paving the way for a Turkish military incursion against Kurdish-led forces.

The Turkish president has recently made conciliatory noises over the issues of economic and legal reform, signalling a possible change of attitude following the U.S. election. And according to Erdemir, Turkey’s best hope for improving relations with the United States is that “Erdoğan recognises that Biden will not indulge him the way Trump did.”

“Biden, however, would be naïve to assume that Erdogan will make responsible choices given the Turkish strongman’s house of cards is built on iron-fisted authoritarianism at home and military adventurism abroad,” he said.