Turkey, US seem not to derail ties totally despite ‘genocide’ crisis
Before anything else, it was unfortunate for U.S. President Joe Biden to place a call to President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to tell that he would use the word “genocide” in the annual presidential commemoration statement on the day Turkey was celebrating its one of the most important national days. It was also unfortunate that he disseminated such disturbing news for Turkey in his first contact with President Erdoğan after more than three months in power.
It is obvious that Biden is not enthusiastic about developing a working relationship with Erdoğan due to both personal tensions between the two and disagreements on various regional and global matters. (The U.S. media quoting officials described Biden-Erdoğan conversation as tense.)
But still, to blame a nation for committing a genocide – the worst of all crimes against humanity - in the absence of evidence and at the expense of politicizing the history is hard to explain. In Ankara, Biden is blamed for too much personalizing the Turkish dossier and using the current unpromising state of ties with this country for a blunt recognition of the 1915 events as genocide, unlike his predecessors.
A very big part of the Turkish public opinion has regarded this move as “hostile” and unfriendly. It will have serious repercussions in terms of the U.S. perception among the Turkish nation. Many in Ankara believe Biden’s move will further polarize the Caucasus region and further complicate efforts to normalize ties between Turkey and Armenia as well as Azerbaijan and Armenia.
One important question is to what extent will Biden’s illustration of the 1915 events as genocide impact the already fragile Turkish-American relationship? It is true that the declaration has been written in a very careful way to confine the genocide to the Ottoman-era by avoiding any reference to the Republic of Turkey and the Turkish nation.
Plus, it underlines that “we do this not to cast blame but to ensure that what happened is never repeated.” This may be Biden’s intention, but it is hard to be sure that it won’t trigger legal actions against Turkey.
Given the actual nature of ties between the two countries, it’s obvious that Biden’s latest move will not help change the course of ties. Turkey has not yet announced any retaliatory measures, but it’s expected that President Erdoğan will outline the Turkish reaction against the U.S. today after the cabinet meeting.
Having said that, Ankara is not mulling a complete derailment of ties with the U.S. either. There are so many titles which the two countries are working on together, and neither side can afford their ties to come to a grinding halt.
That’s why Erdoğan and Biden agreed to meet in person on June 14 in Brussels on the occasion of the NATO leaders’ summit.
However, it might be time for those in Washington to question their harsh and unfriendly approach towards Turkey, a NATO ally for seven decades.
It is, of course, true that not all of the Turkish actions are in line with the allied spirit, but Washington’s countermoves have already been beyond limits.
The current understanding here suggests keeping the train on track with the U.S. for now, but the continuation of this sort of unfriendly acts against Turkey will surely create more distance between Turkey and the U.S. and ultimately the West.
If this is not Washington’s policy, it should reverse this deterioration in ties and start treating Turkey like an ally.