There were not many surprises at the meeting held between President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and the U.S. President Joe Biden at the NATO Summit in Brussels.
While the main issues of disagreement have been left as they are, the parties decided to focus on issues on which they can collaborate. Here are the details…
The S-400 issue seems to be ‘frozen’ but progress was made on other areas of cooperation in defense. For example, the U.S. will most likely allow Turkey to sell ATAK helicopters to Pakistan. In fact, the Washington administration ‘made an exception’ for ATAK helicopters to be sold by the Philippines.
Of course, there is one condition: Turkey will neither purchase the second S-400 battery nor use missiles.
No compromise was made regarding the PYD/YPG issue. “On the terror issue, there is a distorted understanding among organizations that classifies good terrorist and bad terrorist,” said Erdogan at the press conference after the meeting. The lack of any progress on this hot-button issue, however, was expected as the new administration of the U.S. has completely shifted its roadmap in Syria. The U.S. Syria policy was clarified at the meeting held in Geneva between Biden and Russian leader Vladimir Putin. The Biden administration, which revealed that it would focus on the China threat and Southeast Asia, will most likely ‘transfer’ the Syria issue to Russia. If this happens, Moscow will be Turkey’s interlocutor on the Syria file. Except for Idlib, an Erdogan-Putin compromise will be necessary for the future o territory east of the Euphrates. The U.S., meanwhile, will be able to proceed in ‘carrying out its competition with Moscow through Turkey’.
An agreement between Biden and Erdogan seems to have been reached on Afghanistan. Erdogan announced that Pakistan and Hungary will also work with Turkey for the security of Kabul Airport. The involvement of Pakistan in the plan is necessary to persuade the Taliban to agree and Hungary’s involvement is necessary for the financial and intelligence support from the EU. The participation of these nations will also prevent Turkish soldiers from being alone and unprotected -to a certain extent – in a challenging geography such as Afghanistan.
The issue of NATO’s role in the Black Sea, which Erdogan brought up at his news conference, was the ‘surprise’ of the meeting. Turkey’s current foreign policy has been to keep NATO away from the Black Sea as much as possible – to avoid raising tensions with Russia. However, Erdogan said that ‘the Alliance should take an active role everywhere that needs the security umbrella provided by NATO from the Mediterranean to the Black Sea, from Europe to Asia.’
This shows that the AK Party is converging with Washington in terms of making NATO more effective in the Black Sea. However, it’s obvious that Moscow won’t like this turn of events.
“We’ve agreed to use direct channels of dialogue effectively and regularly, befitting the two allies and strategic partners,” said Erdogan regarding the ‘direct channels of dialogue’ at the press conference. The expression used by Erdogan is interesting. Apparently, Erdogan has taken the first step to establish the ‘direct’ relationship with Biden as he did with the former U.S. President Trump. However, it’s a matter of debate how successful this effort has been.
Biden, for instance, snubbed Erdogan’s Turkey invitation, citing his ‘busy agenda’.
Meanwhile, it seems no White House invitation was made to Erdogan, who did not suggest Washington as the venue for a possible future visit to the U.S. Instead, the AK Party government will most likely push the UN General Assembly meetings process in September for a new Erdogan-Biden meeting.
Regarding bilateral trade with the U.S., Erdogan complained that the USD 100bn bilateral trade target stood at USD 22-23bn. He also announced that compromise has been made to work on this issue.
The issue of Biden’s recognition of the events of 1915 as a ‘genocide’ ranks as one of ‘the most surprising outcomes’ of the meeting due to both Erdogan’s statements before his visit to Brussels and his statements at the news conference after the meeting. Before his visit, Erdogan stated that he would explain to Biden the error of using the genocide term. However, during the press conference following the meeting, he said ‘Thank God” that the issue was not brought. (What’s even more interesting is that the term “Thank God”, was omitted on the official website of the Presidency). It was not understood why Erdogan used the expression as he stated that he would bring up this subject in person.
Both the NATO Summit itself and bilateral talks held by leaders of NATO member states during the summit seem to have important consequences for the near future of the region where Turkey is also located.
The NATO summit thoroughly revealed that ‘America is back’, as President Biden frequently puts it.
There are many things to write and think about…