WASHINGTON – US officials and Congress are no longer bound by President Trump’s affection for the authoritarian leader for Turkey, but rather are using the last days of his presidency to prepare for sanctions and strike a tough rhetoric against the strategic but unreliable ally.
Turkey, a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, has infuriated the administration almost from its inception. That was just as much as Mr Trump – and Liked it To its president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan – like the measures the government took in Ankara Violated human rights, Jailed The Americans And the JournalistsAnd they got into confrontations from Syria to me Libya to me Caucasus to me Eastern Mediterranean.
Reorienting US policy will also require President-elect Joseph R Biden Jr. to carefully return Turkey into the arms of the West and move away from pushing it too close to Russia.
“For years, President Trump personally protected Erdogan and Turkey,” said Senator Chris Van Hollen, a Democrat from Maryland. He said that the incoming Biden administration “will be an important examination of Erdogan’s efforts to expand his influence at our expense, in a way that undermines our interests.”
“It’s a little crossroads for Erdogan,” Mr. Van Hollen said in a recent interview. “He will have to make a decision – will he be a loyal ally of NATO, or will he go alone in the region?”
Congress prepares this week for Approval of economic sanctions against Turkey To purchase Russian missile defense systems early in Mr. Trump’s term, which could expose NATO military technology to Moscow. Mr. Trump suspended sanctions last year, after the defense systems were delivered to Turkey.
For the first time, after Ankara tested the system this fall, White House officials have told Turkish diplomats that the Trump administration will not oppose congressional sanctions, according to two people involved in the discussions.
Instead, they said that the sanctions were intended in part as a warning EgyptAnd the IndiaAnd the Saudi Arabia And other countries that have shown an interest in purchasing Russian military equipment.
At a meeting of NATO countries ’foreign ministers last week, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo criticized Turkey on several fronts, according to a person familiar with his comments. His statements – against Turkey’s defense purchases, her Exploration for natural gas in disputed waters In the eastern Mediterranean and Supporting foreign forces in foreign conflicts such as Libya It showed that Pompeo was tired of trying to de-escalate the escalating tensions between European allies and US lawmakers.
“We are concerned about some Turkish behavior,” US Ambassador to NATO Kay Bailey Hutchison told reporters before the foreign ministers’ meeting in Brussels. “The idea that you could place a Russian-made missile defense system in the middle of our alliance is an out-of-bounds idea.”
European Union Weigh its sanctions against Turkey In retaliation for separate disputes with Greece, Cyprus and Germany, a decision could come as soon as Thursday, according to a European diplomat in Washington.
If we take into account, Turkey is feeling increasingly isolated, according to a senior official in its government.
Past months Base expedition ship of the US Navy In Souda Bay, off the Greek coast, the senior official indicated that Turkey is no longer the main ally of the United States in the eastern Mediterranean.
The Ibrahim Accords brokered by the Trump administration this fall – cementing normal relations between Israel and three Arab countries, Bahrain, Sudan, and the United Arab Emirates – mocked Middle Eastern states hostile to the Muslim Brotherhood. The Islamic movement is supported by Mr. Erdogan.
The senior Turkish official also described feeling contempt for Mr. Pompeo’s visits this fall to his rivals in Cyprus and Greece, and then his Istanbul tour with his wife in November instead of going to Ankara to meet government leaders.
The expected sanctions will certainly affect Turkey An already strained economy Mr Erdogan may be forced to withdraw from most of his military duties abroad. (There may be one exception in neighboring Syria, where Turkey is fighting Islamic State fighters and Kurdish fighters backed by America; Mr. Erdogan considers both groups terrorists and is unlikely to back down.)
Experts warn that this could push Turkey into the arms of Russia if Biden is not careful.
“Relations with Turkey will be a major and urgent issue for the Biden administration,” said James F. Jeffrey, a former US ambassador to Turkey and Iraq, who retired last month from his position as the State Department’s special envoy for Syria policy and the coalition to defeat the Union.
Given the country’s size, location, economic and military power, and the pro-Western sentiments of the population – if not its president – is it logical to marginalize Turkey or push it to the Russian camp? Mr. Geoffrey said.
He noted that Turkey and Russia have been on opposite sides in the ongoing conflicts in Syria, Libya and Nagorno-Karabakh. It also remains an important ally of NATO in Iraq and Afghanistan, and opposes Iran’s regional progress.
The senior Turkish official described Erdogan’s interests as having more in common with the West than they do with Russia. But he said the way the Biden administration would handle the dispute over missile defense systems would be the first test.
It is not certain that a compromise can be found. But the Turkish official said that Mr. Biden’s advisers had indicated in low-level discussions that they were open to considering compromises when they were proposed, including NATO working group convened To consider whether Russia can actually penetrate Western military systems with missile defense systems.
A spokesman for Biden’s transition team declined to comment.
The senior Turkish official also said that Mr. Biden’s advisers made it clear that they would communicate with Turkey through traditional and technical diplomatic channels – and would not depend on what type all by herself And the Direct lines The contacts that characterized the relationship between Mr. Trump and Mr. Erdogan.
The senior official said this is good news for the Turks.
Julian Barnes contributed reporting.