Turkey-U.S. ties have always had their ups and downs. In recent years, relations between the two have soured because of Turkey's purchase of the Russian S-400 air defense system and the U.S. support for PKK/YPG terrorists in Syria.
Joe Biden, a former U.S. vice president and Democratic presidential candidate, remarked on Turkey and President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in a New York Times interview, which came out eight months ago but became a trending topic last week. The remarks have added to the tension.
Biden’s suggestions to find "democratic ways" to "get rid of Erdoğan" are something that we, as a nation, react strongly against. It is a way of thinking that sees Turkey as a puppet, a banana republic, or in a more optimistic sense, a dependent country.
However, this is completely untrue. Such Biden-like prejudices hurt the national pride of every single Turkish citizen, even those who are Erdoğan's opponents. Turkish people are very sensitive since we also fought an independence war on which the republic was founded. The founding leader of the country, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, defeated the Western armies, hence the idea of being independent is vital to our existence.
Biden seems to lack the minimum level of knowledge of our history. His words are also a shame for the U.S., which always stresses the importance of democratic values.
If U.S. administrations claim to support democracy and the free will of people, they should believe in the power of the free majority’s will without any intervention.
In short, the Turkish nation will not tolerate his words, including those who vote for Erdoğan’s opposition.
However, despite the Biden crisis and the problems that occurred between the two sides, I still believe that the U.S. and Turkey are important allies. They need each other. The bilateral relations are too precious to jeopardize. U.S. President Donald Trump sees this fact. He stresses the importance he gives to Erdoğan and Turkey.
In political and economic terms, the two countries have been working closely with each other. The numbers reveal that fact.
According to the latest data, Turkey’s exports to the U.S. from January through July reached $5.56 billion (TL 40.21 billion), despite the pandemic. Hence the U.S. has become one of the few countries that consistently increased imports from Turkey.
The Turkish Trade Ministry’s recent data makes the U.S. Turkey's second-largest export market.
The bilateral trade volume, which was at $16.1 billion in 2010, reached $19.1 billion last year. Turkey’s trade deficit with the U.S. also declined from $8.5 billion to $3.1 billion.
However, this is far from enough, and Turkey should increase its share in bilateral trade.
These numbers also show that bilateral relations are far more important than the current problems. That is why I see Biden’s unfortunate words as a political gaffe.
If he wins and makes it to the White House, he will probably be looking for good relations with a consistent and strong ally like Turkey.
Let me remind you that Turkey has been a member of NATO since 1952. Thus hurting a NATO ally is not the wisest thing an American politician like Biden could do.
Criticizing a foreign leader is natural and understandable but showing a willingness to get involved in another country’s destiny through manipulation is another matter altogether.
Biden’s support for the PKK/YPG elements is shown as the main reason for his words and having hawkish U.S. decisionmakers, like Brett McGurk, who is seen as the architect of the U.S. YPG policy, on his team, strengthens this perception.
But I see a dilemma in Biden’s attitude toward the solution of the "Kurdish problem." If he is a friend of the Kurdish people, why was he not defending the peace process in Turkey, which was a big risk for Erdoğan at the time? There were peace talks throughout the whole country.
I believe to be consistent, Biden should draw a clearer paradigm of his policy on Turkey.