How do you react to America first
Turning point in relationships : The US is bringing Turkey back down to earth
US President Biden's declaration on the Armenian Genocide marks a turning point in US-Turkey relations. So far, President Erdogan has acted on the assumption that Turkey is so indispensable to the West that even the superpower USA must be careful not to upset them.
That has changed. Biden wants to make it clear to Ankara that Turkey needs America more than the other way around. Turkey sees itself as a regional power that nobody can ignore, not even America. But the Biden government sees Erdogan as an autocrat to whom limits must be set.
In his telephone conversation with Erdogan the day before the Armenian Declaration, the US President said he wanted to "deal efficiently with disagreements". He could have said the same about Russia.
Biden apparently does not expect that the Turkish-American disputes - for example because of the close Turkish relations with Russia and American cooperation with the Syrian Kurds - could be resolved.
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“We must not lose Turkey” has long been a principle of European and American policy towards Ankara. Biden is now signaling: Turkey is about to lose the West.
This changes the rules of the game. The US government is betting that Turkey has no alternative to the West. Russia or China are neither strategically nor economically suitable as a substitute, and the dream of the Turkish role of great power is based on overestimation of oneself.
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Clear signals are one thing - how Erdogan reacts to them is another. Turkey can parade the US in Syria and elsewhere, throw the US Air Force out of the country and slow down American initiatives in NATO. Turkish nationalists are already calling for retaliation for the Armenian declaration.
However, with an openly anti-American policy, Erdogan would risk even more trouble with Biden, which could damage the Turkish economy. Even before Biden's declaration, the lira lost a lot of its value.
One consequence of the Turkish-American dispute could be a stronger turn by Erdogan to the EU. More than ever, the Turkish president needs strong partners who can help him out of political isolation.
Unlike Biden, Erdogan was able to score points with the EU with his latest charm offensive. However, the Europeans insist on Turkish good behavior towards Greece and Cyprus and set conditions for an expansion of the customs union. Biden's move could help bring Turkey back down to earth.
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