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Biden likely to take tough steps to rein in Turkey’s wayward Erdogan regime

Biden likely to take tough steps to rein in Turkey’s wayward Erdogan regime

The parting shots fired by the outgoing Donald Trump administration at the Recep Tayyip Erdogan regime signals hard times ahead for Turkey which has ruffled feathers across continents through its expansionist agenda.

Irrespective of Ankara purchasing S-400 missile defence systems from Russia and the world losing patience with Erdogan's unending Islamist rhetoric, Trump enjoyed a good working relationship with his NATO partner. But developments over the last few days suggest that the foundation has already been laid for the incoming Joe Biden team which is expected to adopt a much tougher and realistic approach towards Turkey.

Reports have emerged how US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo slammed Turkey "for opposing the principles and operation of NATO and undermining its cohesion" during a virtual meeting of NATO Foreign Ministers on Tuesday.

"In the teleconference, Pompeo spoke of Ankara’s provocative activities in the eastern Mediterranean, Libya, Syria and Nagorno-Karabakh, adding that the Turkish acquisition of the S-400 missile system was a gift to Russia from a NATO ally. He also said that the military deconfliction mechanism agreed between Athens and Ankara in October is not working because of Turkey," reported leading Greek daily <em>Kathimerini</em>.


A day before the ministerial, Kay Bailey Hutchison, the US Permanent Representative to NATO, had also raised concerns when asked about Turkey's future in the western alliance.

"Yes. We are concerned about some of the Turkish behavior. Turkey has been a great ally for NATO and it’s a long – a long-time ally. But some of the behavior that has been mentioned is problematic to the unity of the alliance, and the alliance is strong because we are unified. So we are concerned, most especially about the S-400. The idea that you could put a Russian-made missile defense system in the middle of our alliance is out of bounds. And we have registered that with Turkey time and again, and we hope that before Turkey turns on that missile defense system that they will understand the consequences and how much it will hurt their alliance interoperability with the rest of us," Hutchison said in a special online briefing.


"So I hope that Turkey is thinking about that, and I hope that they will turn back the decision that they made in error to put a Russian missile defense system into Ankara. So most certainly that many of us are trying to work with Turkey in a way that would cement our alliance unity, and we’re asking Turkey to once again be the great ally that they have been in the past," she added.

Hutchison was also hopeful that there is no escalation of tension between Greece and Turkey in the Eastern Mediterranean. The mild rebuke can still be seen by many as "coddling" Turkey — as columnist David Ignatius wrote recently in the <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/global-opinions/why-is-the-trump-administration-enabling-turkey/2020/09/03/491ecea6-ee02-11ea-b4bc-3a2098fc73d4_story.html"><em>Washington Post</em></a>.

"Turkey is the elephant in the room in US foreign policy. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan champions his own brand of Islamist fundamentalism. He embraces terrorists from Hamas. He threatens US allies such as Greece, France and the United Arab Emirates. Yet, somehow, he gets away with it. Erdogan's regional ambitions reflect what analysts describe as a “neo-Ottoman” desire for hegemony beyond the Turkish borders drawn after World War I," wrote Ignatius.

But, not always is it so easy to let bygones be just bygones. Joe Biden's return, this time as POTUS, has forced many to spend sleepless nights in Ankara. Talks of potential sanctions under a "less friendly White House" are already doing the rounds. Of course, it isn't too long ago that Biden had called the Turkish president an "autocrat" and said that he would support the opposition's efforts to defeat him.

On October 16, Biden gave another jolt to the Turkish government by releasing his 'Vision for Greek Americans and US-Greece Relations' in which he not only recalled calling on the Trump Administration to press Turkey to refrain from further provocative actions in the region against Greece, including threats of force, but also outlined his future policy in the region.


"Unlike President Trump, Joe will call out Turkish behavior that is in violation of international law or that contravenes its commitments as a NATO ally, such as Turkish violations of Greek airspace," the document mentioned.

No wonder Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, one of the first to congratulate Biden on his election victory, is hoping that the US will play a "decisive role" in the Middle East and the Eastern Mediterranean, starting 2021.

"I am sure that President Biden will contribute to the restoration of collective security balances in our sensitive region, a region that he knows well as he’s been following it for decades," Mitsotakis said last month.

Not just the Greeks but the Kurds, who were fearing an Islamic State resurgence after Trump's decision to pull out US troops from Syria, are also optimistic over Biden taking over as the next US President.

"I extend my warmest congratulations to @JoeBiden and @KamalaHarris on their historic election victory. We look forward to continued close cooperation with the United States to protect our gains in the fight against Daesh and build a better future for Syrians," tweeted Mazloum Abdi, the commanding general of the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).