The meeting between U.S. President Joe Biden and President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who are expected to come together on the sidelines of the Climate Summit in Glasgow at the beginning of next week, perhaps indicates a do-or-die situation in terms of the future of Turkish-American relations.
It is clear that the winds between Washington and Ankara have been blowing cold in recent years and have almost frozen over during the Biden era.
Biden, who gave extremely negative messages to Turkey during his campaign before he even became president, also gave the green light to the opposition in Turkey's domestic politics and could not hide his interfering attitude in the internal affairs of other countries.
Most recently, as a New York Times piece implied on Oct. 23, it is perceived that the U.S was the secret architect of the recent statement urging the release of Turkish tycoon Osman Kavala that provoked a great reaction from the Turkish public. The intervention of 10 ambassadors in Turkey's internal affairs is a violation of the Vienna Convention, which determines the diplomatic practices and law.
Although 10 foreign mission chiefs, including the U.S. ambassador, and the U.S. State Department announced their compliance with the decisions of the Vienna Commission, in this example, the fact that the U.S. is no longer able to communicate via its old methods and policies toward Turkey, which reveals an agenda in its foreign and domestic policy, is another reality.
It is also obvious that Washington, which has been accustomed to delaying relations and resolving them unilaterally so far when it comes to Turkey's sovereignty and national security, has now lost the ability to produce a constructive policy.
Washington's mental confusion with regards to Ankara underlies the very problematic image of relations between the two countries today. With its continually vacillating policies, it is clear that Washington directly threatens and endangers Turkey's interests.
There are urgent steps that Ankara expects Washington to take in order for relations between the two countries to continue at least on a stable line based on mutual interests. As Erdoğan stated on the plane to Azerbaijan this week, the main topic that will be on the table in Glasgow is the reimbursement of Turkey's expenses for the F-35 fighter jet program. For this purpose, as a result of the negotiations held by the ministries of defense of the two countries, the purchase of new F-16s is on the agenda, instead of F-35s, with the $1.4 billion (TL 13.32 billion) that Turkey has paid to date.
Turkey, a manufacturer and buyer of the F-35s, was expelled from the program last year over its purchase of Russia’s S-400 air defense systems in 2019. It says its removal is unjust and has demanded reimbursement for its $1.4 billion investment in the program. Erdoğan previously said Washington offered Ankara a package of F-16 jets and modernization kits in exchange for the payment.
Before the leaders' meeting at the Glasgow summit, talks between diplomatic and military authorities have also accelerated. Presidential Spokesperson Ibrahim Kalın and U.S. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan on Wednesday held a phone call discussing bilateral relations, the F-35/F-16 issue, global climate change, Afghanistan, Syria, Libya, Nagorno-Karabakh, Greece, the Eastern Mediterranean and other regional developments. Also, U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd James Austin and Defense Minister Hulusi Akar held a phone call on Wednesday where they discussed cooperation on bilateral as well as regional defense and security issues.
On the other hand, it was reported that a delegation from the U.S. Department of Defense will arrive in Ankara later this week to hold talks to resolve the F-35 crisis. The meeting was also confirmed both by the American and Turkish Defense Ministries.
Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu told a TV channel on Thursday that the offer of talks in Glasgow had been received by the U.S. and that he could meet with his counterpart Anthony Blinken in addition to the talks between the two countries' presidents. He also commented on the statement by 10 ambassadors suggesting that the U.S. was not behind it. "There is no Biden behind this statement," said Çavuşoğlu when asked about the New York Times piece on the issue.
Noting that the F-16s are not within the CAATSA sanctions against Turkey, Çavuşoğlu also mentioned that Turkey is not without alternatives if the U.S. Congress decides to block the purchase of F-16s. Erdoğan underlined this earlier in a similar message: "We see that different lobbies are involved in this issue. There are 11 members of Congress. Congressional approval is important. Why did we buy the S-400? The U.S. did not sell the Patriots to us under the pretext of Congress, so we turned to other sources. Now such a letter may come from Congress, but here the attitude of the U.S. administration is more important. The administration can convince Congress. Turkey has never been helpless. It currently produces 75% of its needs."
Çavuşoğlu also made it clear that if the U.S. rejects Ankara's new F-16 requests, the Su-35 and Su-57 options from Russia will come into play, he said. “When there is a need, we can turn to other countries. We have alternatives. We continue our way. We get our needs from other sources until we produce our own aircraft. If the United States does not want to solve these problems or Congress blocks it, other options, including Su-35 and Su-57, will come into play. Double standards for Turkey weaken NATO,” he continued.
In the shadow of these messages from Ankara, it is clear that it is impossible for Washington to easily convince Turkey in Glasgow with the reluctant statements it has made from time to time on these topics so far. In particular, Washington does not deny its political and military support for the YPG/PKK in Syria, nor does it deny its support for Greece's arms race.
On the one hand, Washington, which ignores Turkey's national security and interests in the Eastern Mediterranean and Syria, on the other hand, is trying to create diplomatic weaknesses by interfering in Turkey's internal affairs on different grounds. On the other hand, Ankara has made it clear that it will do whatever is necessary for national security if the attacks from YPG/PKK continue in Syria and the U.S. does not commit to stopping its support for the terrorist organization.
Ankara's position on this issue can be summarized with the sentence Erdoğan has uttered multiple times: "We can come suddenly one night." Now Ankara has once again shown its cards to Washington, perhaps patiently, both with regard to military purchases, the terrorist threat to Turkey from Syria, and U.S. support for the YPG terrorist organization. That is why Turkey has always given priority to diplomacy and dialogue in the face of these issues so far. But this time it may be the last. In fact, there are strong signs of this in Ankara.