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Erdogan nurses forlorn hope for the best with Biden

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Americans, Turkey, American, Turkish

Oped

Erdogan nurses forlorn hope for the best with Biden

Hugh Fitzgerald

“President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Friday, January 14, that he hoped positive steps will be taken by Washington on Turkey’s role in the F-35 jet program, and its ability to purchase the plane be reinstated, once US President-elect Joe Biden takes office. Erdogan described the ban on Turkey’s purchase of the F-35, in response to Ankara’s buying the Russian S-400 anti-missile defense system, as a “serious wrong.”

He is certain to be disappointed. The report on his hopes for a rapprochement with Washington, allowing Turkey to buy the F-35, is here: “Erdogan hopes for positive steps on F-35 jet programme in Biden term,” Reuters, January 15, 2021:

Last month, Washington imposed long-anticipated sanctions on Turkey’s defense industry over its acquisition of S-400 missile defense systems from Moscow, in a move Turkey called a “grave mistake.”

The Americans have long warned Erdogan against buying the S-400 anti-missile defense system from the Russians, threatening to stop the sale of F-35s to Turkey. For if Turkey were to have the F-35 planes along with the S-400 missile defense system, Russian defense specialists could figure out how well the S-400 system performed against the Stealth F-35 fighter jet, discovering both the plane’s possible vulnerabilities, and ways to improve the S-400 system to better defend against the F-35. The American government continually warned Erdogan of the consequences if he went through with buying the S-400 from Moscow; he defied those warnings, went ahead with the purchase, and now finds that the Americans were serious in carrying out their threats, The result of his folly: there will be no sale of F-35s to Turkey, no sale of American parts to Turkish weapons manufacturers, no further participation by Turkey in building the F-35s, to which Turkey had been contributing 900 separate parts, and stood to gain $10 billion dollars from the sale of those parts over the next decade.

Erdogan is pinning his hopes for a change of policy on Biden. It’s a forlorn hope. Biden has called Erdogan an “autocrat,” suggested that he would support the Turkish political opposition, and blamed Erdogan for allowing ISIS members to travel freely through Turkey to Syria and Iraq, a charge for which there is copious evidence. It’s an ill wind blowing in Washington for Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

The United States has also removed fellow NATO member Turkey from the F-35 program over the move.

Washington says the S-400s pose a threat to its F-35 fighter jets and to NATO’s broader defense systems. Turkey rejects this, saying S-400s will not be integrated into NATO and purchasing them was a necessity as it was unable to procure air defense systems from any NATO ally on satisfactory terms.

“No country can determine the steps we will take toward the defence industry, that fully depends on the decisions we make,” Erdogan told reporters in Istanbul, adding Ankara was in talks to procure a second shipment of S-400s from Russia and would hold talks on the issue later this month.

Here Erdogan is his quintessential bull-headed and wrong-headed self. At the very moment when he should be placating Washington as best he can, he announces that he intends to buy a second shipment of S-400s from the Russians. How does he think Washington will react to that news? He has a hard time not believing his own fantasies. His solipsism is showing.

“We don’t know what the Biden administration will say at this stage (on the S-400s),” he added. “Despite having paid a serious fete [down payment] on the F-35s, the F-35s still have not been given to us. This is a serious wrong the United States did against us as a NATO ally,” he said.

“My hope is that, after we hold talks with Biden as he takes office, we will take much more positive steps and put these back on track.”

What “positive steps” can Turkey take if it insists on keeping the Russian S-400 missile system? And pinning his hopes on “talks with Biden” shows how ill-informed Erdogan is about the new president. Biden is unlikely to be any more yielding than Trump when it comes to Turkey. He repeatedly has shown his impatience with Erdogan over his “autocratic” ways, his suppression of political opponents whom Biden says he will support, and his allowing ISIS members in Europe unhindered passage through Turkey to Syria and Iraq. As for the Americans withholding Turkey’s down payment on the F-35s, about which Erdogan complains, that money will of course be given back; the Americans had been holding onto that money only in the hope that Erdogan at the last moment would come to his senses and not buy the S-400 system from Russia. And then the F-35 sale could go through.

They were wrong.

It is comical to hear Erdogan complain with an air of injured innocence and wounded pride about being so mistreated by the U.S. even though Turkey, he says, deserves better because it is “a NATO ally/”. No: Turkey is a member of NATO, but it is no longer an ally. It refused to allow the Americans to use the Incirlik Air Base in their invasion of Iraq. Turkey allowed its territory to be crossed by ISIS members going to Syria and Iraq from Europe. It has repeatedly attacked the Kurds, America’s most effective and loyal ally against ISIS, in both Syria and Iraq. It has sided with the faction in western Libya’s civil war that includes Islamists against the pro-American Geneal Haftar. He has called for the formation of a pan-Islamic military force that, impliedly under Turkish leadership, would be capable of destroying the state of Israel. He has attacked two NATO neighbors, Germany and the Netherlands , as “Nazis” because they did not permit Erdogan’s men to hold political rallies among the Turkish diaspora in both countries; Erdogan also called Austria, a NATO ally though not.a member, a country of “Nazis” because Vienna dared d to shut down some extremist mosques and expel their imams. He has threatened to make “war” on Greece because of a dispute on maritime territorial waters. There is no love lost between Erdogan-run Turkey and other members of NATO.

“Biden will be inaugurated on Jan. 20, replacing incumbent Donald Trump, with whom Erdogan had a close relationship. Ankara has said it hopes for better with Washington then.

Hope away, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. It wouldn’t surprise many of us if you continue to defy not only the Americans, but all the other NATO states, those that you have already denounced as “Nazis” and those that you haven’t yet gotten around to denouncing, as well as your threats of war made against Greece, a fellow NATO member. Your “NATO allies” may finally decide that it’s time to usher Turkey out of the alliance, where in recent years it has been a constant source of hostility and discord. “Why is Turkey still in NATO?” is a question being asked ever more frequently. And so far, no one has yet come up with a satisfactory reason.

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