With the West or without it? Erdogan is making the choice in Washington

After the meeting, Turkish and American leaders it will become clear how relations develop between the NATO allies

С Западом или без него? Эрдоган делает выбор в Вашингтоне

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.© Laszlo Balogh/Getty Images Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan arrives on 13 November on a visit to Washington to talk face to face with his American counterpart Donald trump. On the agenda of the meeting — clashes in Syria, the accusations against the Turkish Bank Halkbank in illegal financial transactions with Iran, possible sanctions against the environment of Erdogan and the purchase by Ankara of the Russian anti-aircraft missile system s-400. The latter question is particularly important. Three days before the meeting, the US presidential Advisor for national security Robert O’brien separately focused on it: in a conversation with CBS have threatened Turkey with “significant” sanctions if she does not give up Russian weapons. In the White house ready to talk with Turkey in a raised voice because of Russia, but did not exclude concessions: according to the Washington Post, trump has to offer Erdogan a deal for $100 billion.

“Messed up because of one person — Erdogan”

Shortly before the meeting of the American political class has indicated their position regarding Turkey. In the House of representatives, where the majority belongs to Democrats, the Turkish leader responded extremely undiplomatic. “He left a real dark mark on the historically secular traditions of democracy in their country. We need to put pressure on him, while increasing diplomatic efforts in the hope to return to Turkey on the right path as our NATO ally,” — said in November the head of the international Affairs Committee Eliot Engel. The politician allowed himself more: he called Erdogan “authoritarian robber”, and the blame for the course of Turkey partially laid on trump, because the White house allegedly “lost” with the punishment of Ankara.

In the Senate, where most Republicans, the attitude towards NATO ally almost as hostile. “We would like [to improve relations] with Turkey, but, unfortunately, erdoğan did not give any reason to believe that this desire is mutual”, — stated the Chairman of the international Affairs Committee of the Senate Jim Risch. As Engel, Rish allowed himself the undiplomatic remarks. “Every step that [Erdogan] makes, every sentence that he utters, send us in a completely different direction [than friendship]. The Turkish nation was an ally. But that all changed because of one single person in one single administration.”

Unlike the Democrats of the lower house, the Senator still offers to give Ankara the last chance. Therefore, sanctions against Turkey hopes to wait before results will be known of the negotiations on 13 November. More strongly minded congressmen in the House of representatives are not going to wait. 30 October, they voted for the act, prescribing restrictions against the Turkish Bank Halkbank, suspected of helping Iran, officials of the Turkish administration and the ban on the export of “any goods, services and technology for military purpose”, which Ankara might use military action in Syria. Another resolution adopted by the Congress, produced a bombshell: the deputies have recognized the Armenian genocide by the Turks in 1915-1916, thus openly challenging the gauntlet to Ankara.

Turkish secret charm

Against this background, Erdogan would not have reason for optimism before the visit to Washington, if not the position of US President Donald trump. Despite the significant cooling of relations with Turkey, continued all his reign, trump has shown himself a supporter of the compromise in the middle East. In October 2019, the American President quite openly demonstrated lack of interest in sanctions against Turkey when Ankara invaded Syria to push back from the border kurdo-Arab “Syrian democratic forces,” the White house has limited itself to easy restrictions against the Turks, which was canceled when the operation was suspended. In those days, trump is constantly on the phone with Erdogan and made decisions on the basis of these negotiations. “Turkish President uses a very effective tool of personal communication,” — said TASS for this reason the analyst Osman Jan Unver, lecturer of Istanbul University Ayvansaray.

This time, however, the room for maneuver of the American and Turkish leaders are extremely narrowed. Although trump is hoping to negotiate with Erdogan tete-a-tete, but can not ignore the decisions of Congress. Even if it’s not like the American President, he will have to take a hard tone in conversation with Ankara.

The US has not forgotten about the s-400

In particular promises to be a tense exchange of views on the Russian anti-aircraft missile system s-400, purchased by Turkey in the summer of 2019. Then Washington threatened to impose sanctions against Ankara due to the purchase of these weapons. According to the official US position, Russian military technology is incompatible with NATO, and in addition, their purchase questioned the loyalty of Turkey to the interests of the Alliance. Erdogan’s approach is the opposite: his country has the right to buy those weapons, which it considers necessary. With regard to technological incompatibility, it is far from obvious: Russian military experts repeatedly put this assertion into question.

In September and October, the question of sanctions for the C-400 fell from the agenda. However, as it turned out, Washington never forgave Ankara. Shortly before Erdogan’s visit to Washington, trump’s adviser on national security Robert O’brien returned again to this theme. “NATO has no place for the s-400. In NATO there is no place for significant military purchases from Russia. That is the message that President trump will give Erdogan the most obvious way, when he will arrive here on a visit”. O’brien mentioned the sanctions, promising that the potential damage from them will be “significant”, when Turkey “will be influenced by it”.

For his part, Erdogan is ready to offer US compensation: to acquire a missile system Patriot. If a non-binding congressional resolutions, trump could agree to such exchange. However, this time to negotiate one-on-one, the two leaders may not be possible.

Old scores

In Turkey the responsibility for the possible failure of talks lay in the intrigues of his opponents in the US establishment. “In the Congress lobby are actively working against the interests of our country. And we can no longer keep the damage that they’re doing” — has complained in conversation with TASS, the head of the analytical center of Istanbul’s EDAM Sinan Ulgen. According to another political scientist, expert of the analytical center of the Turkish SETA, of the Omer of Hidayet Asceticise, among these are military lobby. “The Pentagon was misleading Congress to continue its operations in the middle East” — shared with TASS opinion Etkisindeki. Expert Osman Jan Unver binds anti-Turkish stance of the Congress with the influence of Israel, whose relations and Turkey has markedly deteriorated under Erdogan. “The establishment in Syria of a quasi-state of Kurds contradicts the principle of territorial integrity of this country, but is in line with Israeli interests,” he says in a conversation with TASS.

However, all interlocutors TASS in Turkey agree that to explain some current events for a long period of deterioration of relations impossible. Even if trump and Erdogan built his course otherwise, Turkey and the United States, most likely, still would’ve fought.

“Everything started to change for the worst not later than the decision of President Obama to support the Kurds and the reactions of Americans in the failed coup of 2016,” — said Etkisindeki.

“I would call the starting point from which began the deterioration of relations, the ill-fated US invasion of Iraq. The consequences of those events proved to be extremely disadvantageous for Turkey. Many was the impression that the United States supports the establishment of an independent Kurdish state in the middle East. The next step Obama did when he assisted the Kurdish group YPG (“Power defense”) in Syria,” builds another logic Ulgen.

Osman Jan Unver sees mutual disappointment of Turkey and West psychological reasons for referring to the even more distant past.

“Even during the cold war, all did not necessarily go smoothly. Remember the Cuban missile crisis of 1962, an embargo on arms sales imposed in connection with the events around Northern Cyprus in 1974. the starting Point has always been wrong, emotional and unrealistic perception of Turkey in the West,” — says the analyst.

Igor Gashkov

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