Erdogan blasts US, praises Russia

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan  addresses the opening session of the UN General Assembly, Sept. 23, 2021. (Photo: AFP)
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan addresses the opening session of the UN General Assembly, Sept. 23, 2021. (Photo: AFP)

WASHINGTON DC (Kurdistan 24) - Speaking to Turkish reporters after attending the opening session of the UN General Assembly, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had extremely harsh words for the US.

Erdogan made his remarks on Thursday, before leaving New York. They seemed to come out of the blue, as nothing evident had happened between Washington and Ankara to prompt his bitter language.

Indeed, on Monday, just three days earlier, in an address to the Turkey Investment Conference in New York, sponsored by the Turkey-US Business Council, Erdogan had taken the opposite position, when he characterized “Turkey and the US as two strong strategic partners and 70-year-long allies.”

But, apparently, Erdogan was discomfited by the failure of US President Joe Biden to hold a personal meeting with him.

That is what Dr. Aykan Erdemir, senior director of the Turkey Program at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and a former member of the Turkish parliament, suggested to Kurdistan24.

"Unfortunately, the point we have reached in my relations with America in my nearly 19-year managerial life as Prime Minister and President is not a good point,” Erdogan told Turkish journalists on Thursday morning.

“I worked well with Bush, I worked well with Mr. Obama, I worked well with Mr. Trump, but with Mr. Biden. I can't say we started well,” he continued.

Erdogan also said that he would meet Russian President Vladimir Putin next week, on September 29, as he explained that the meeting in Sochi would be a “bilateral meeting”—one-on-one—“without any third party.”

In contrast to ties with Washington, “We have not seen any wrongdoing in relations with Russia so far,” he stated.

What Explains Erdogan’s anti-US Statements?

“Erdogan’s harsh rebuke of the United States has caught the Biden administration by surprise,” Erdemir told Kurdistan24, “especially since Washington has been silencing all criticism toward Ankara in exchange for the role the Turkish government has promised to play in Afghanistan.”

Indeed, on Tuesday, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu met in New York. In brief remarks before their meeting, both officials affirmed US-Turkish cooperation on Afghanistan and the generally good state of relations between their two countries.

“We’re so grateful to Turkey for its very strong partnership in Afghanistan and the work that we continue to do together there,” Blinken said. “Turkey and the United States stand together as strong partners and NATO Allies.”

Cavusoglu spoke similarly. “Of course, we will continue working on Afghanistan together. We will continue our cooperation, as well as our cooperation in many other areas,” adding, “While we continue this cooperation, we will do our best to strengthen our bilateral relations work.”

So what explains the sudden reversal of the Turkish position—in just two days?

Erdemir notes how satisfied Erdogan appeared to be with his scheduled bilateral meeting with the Russian president. That contrasts with the lack of any comparable event with the US president.

“The Turkish president’s anger results from his failure to secure an in-person meeting with his US counterpart,” Erdemir said. “Although there were other high-level meetings between US and Turkish officials, for an Erdogan who sees international relations through the lens of interpersonal relations, Biden’s refusal to offer him even a photo opportunity on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly was humiliating.”

In this respect, Donald Trump’s view of international relations closely resembles Erdogan’s. The two got along quite well, although the US actions that Erdogan complained about—sanctions imposed on Turkey for its acquisition of Russia’s missile defense system, the S-400, along with its suspension from the F-35 joint strike fighter program—were undertaken by the Trump administration.

The renewed strains in US-Turkish relations offer the Biden administration, as well as others involved in this issue, “a valuable lesson in the unpredictability of bilateral relations built predominantly on interpersonal ties and transactional deals, as opposed to sustainable relations built on institutional ties and shared values,” Erdemir concluded.

Indeed, they also suggest the role that vainglory can play in human affairs. Erdogan’s very negative comments about US-Turkish relations on Thursday undercut his very positive comments on Monday to the Turkey Investment Conference, when he was seeking to encourage US investment in his country, and that would seem to suggest where his priorities lie.