The country’s autocrat, Recep Erdoğan, scorns Western values.
And what is more, he has repeatedly taken actions that are hostile to U.S. interests.
Given this behavior, the Turkish government does not deserve U.S. support.
Erdoğan has been shredding Turkey’s democratic norms, laws, and institutions. In addition, he imprisons and mistreats his political opponents and journalists. As a result, Turkey is among the worst jailers of journalists in the world. Additionally, the Turkish ruler has significantly curtailed the rights of women. Recently, Ankara withdrew from the Istanbul Convention, an international treaty combating violence against women. Under the AKP, the number of women murdered by men rose rapidly. Turkish femicide rates are among the worst. The regime has also been notoriously brutal toward LGBTQ communities.
Even worse is the way the Turks treat their ethnic and religious minorities. There have been killings, abuse, and discrimination against Kurds, Alevis, Armenians, Greeks, and Jews.
Overseas, apart from occupying the northern part of Cyprus, a European Union member and a U.S. friend, Ankara also prevents the small island state from drilling oil or gas within its exclusive economic zone, using illegal force. Meanwhile, Turkish ships intrude and carry out explorations in Cypriot waters. Erdoğan is eager to steal Cyprus’s natural resources. And what is more, he plans to establish naval and drone bases in the occupied territories. Turkish drones from Cyprus can reach Israel, Egypt, Lebanon, and Gaza, posing a significant threat to regional peace and stability.
Erdoğan’s visit to Cyprus in July, forty-seven years after the Turkish invasion, was not to announce Turkey’s withdrawal from the island or the transfer of the abandoned suburb of Varosha under U.N. administration as numerous U.N. Security Council resolutions obligate Turkey. But to proclaim his intentions to permanently partition the island and reopen and potentially resettle part of Varosha under Turkish control.
The Cypriot government, Greece, and their European Union friends immediately denounced Erdoğan’s moves. U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken called the announcement “provocative” and “unacceptable.” The U.N. Security Council met on Friday, July 23, and adopted a resolution that reprimanded Turkey’s actions. It called on Ankara to withdraw its plans and implement previous U.N. resolutions. There is no doubt the Turks will ignore this one, as they did with all the others.
The Turks provoke Greece in the Aegean, a staunch NATO ally. Turkey’s air force and navy violate Greece’s airspace and territorial waters. They are hostile to Israel, another crucial American friend in the eastern Mediterranean. Erdoğan’s ferocious anti-Semitic attacks spread hate in the region. In Syria, the Turks slaughter and displace America’s Kurdish friends. In addition to intruding in Libya and Iraq, they encourage and support Azerbaijan’s aggressiveness in Nagorno-Karabakh. They drop bombs on innocent Yazidis. Ankara assists terrorist organizations.
Despite strong U.S. objections, Turkey bought the Russian S-400 missile system. It will put NATO, U.S. pilots, and America’s partners in grave danger if it becomes operational. For now, the Turks have suspended its deployment because they fear further American sanctions. But it is difficult to anticipate what Erdoğan will do next, as he is so unpredictable.
The Turkish autocrat appears to be only interested in convincing Washington to remove Turkey from the CAATSA list, re-admit it to the F-15 program and allow it to activate the S-400 missile system. He also wants the United States to end its alliance with the Syrian Kurds and enable Turkey to eradicate them. Finally, he expects Washington to accept Turkey’s faits accomplis and ludicrous claims in the eastern Mediterranean and the Aegean.
Trump’s decision to allow the Turks to massacre America’s Kurdish-Syrian friends, who helped the United States defeat ISIS and, in the war, lost 11,000 fighters, was a big blunder. President Biden should not fall into the same trap and give Erdoğan what he wants. Appeasing Erdoğan does not work. But, instead, it only makes him more arrogant and aggressive.
To his credit, on April 24, President Biden recognized the Armenian Genocide and debunked the Turkish myth that it never happened. For decades, Turkey’s paid lobbyists in Washington, D.C., and pseudo-scholars in many American colleges and universities perpetuated this lie.
In denying that the Armenian Genocide occurred, the Turks were so dishonest; they went as far as to spread a myth that Turkey welcomed the Jews fleeing the Holocaust. In Turkey, they alleged, Jews were accepted, tolerated, and treated fairly. This “myth,” wrote Dr. Alice von Bieberstein, referencing Corry Guttstadt’s (2009) work, was advanced in recent years “to fend off international criticism and deny the Armenian Genocide.”
The Turks have been getting away with their crimes by convincing the United States and the West that Turkey is vital to them. Therefore, it should not be angered. If Washington cannot keep the Turks as allies, Turkey’s friends in the American capital argue, it should ensure that they remain neutral.
History is our guide here, and the verdict is clear. The Turks fought against the United States and its allies during World War I. But America and the West won.
The Turks collaborated with Nazi Germany during World War II. They allowed German warships to pass through the Straits and cooperated with Germany’s secret services. And what was more? They supplied the Nazis with chromium ore that enabled Hitler to prolong the war for several months. Still, the United States and its allies prevailed.
Thought a NATO member, Turkey played the West against the East and milked both sides during the Cold War. Outside the Soviet bloc, Turkey was the largest recipient of Soviet aid (Ekavi Athanassopoulou, 2014). Nevertheless, America and the West came out on top. In 2003 the Turks refused to help the Bush administration in its war against Iraq, but the United States emerged victoriously.
As Turkey sided with America’s enemies or abstained from participating in these conflicts, the United States and its friends could not have prevailed if the Turks or their country had been of critical importance.
Turkey is not vital to the U.S. On the contrary, the United States is of critical importance to Turkey. It is undeniable that Ankara depends militarily and economically on the United States and the West to survive.
Hence, the Biden administration must remind the Turks that the United States is the boss, not Turkey. If the Turks want America’s support, they must abide by its laws.
It is absurd to continue to support and pamper the evil Turkish state, to check and prevent the expansion of other malicious and dangerous regimes.
- The writer is a social science educator in New York City who, among other interests, researches political and security issues in the Middle East, an area in which he did doctoral studies.