The contest for president of Turkey is going to a runoff election, and the incumbent Recep Tayyip Erdogan has a significant advantage going into it.
During his campaign for the presidency, Joe Biden referred to the leader of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, as an “autocrat” and suggested that the United States should back Erdogan’s critics.
Now that Erdogan is pulling ahead in a close runoff election for the presidency of Turkey, Biden and his advisers are a disciplined bunch, to say the least. When they do remark at all, they emphasize that they are not taking a stance on either side of the issue.
I simply hope … Whoever wins, Vice President Joe Biden stated on Sunday in reference to the 1st-round voting in Turkey, a circumstance that he obliquely connected to his own election in 2020. There are already an excessive number of issues plaguing that region of the planet at this time.
Reflecting a troubling fact is the odd ambivalence displayed by the Biden camp. There is a possibility that Erdogan is an authoritarian leader who has undermined democracy in his country.
However, Turkey is additionally a strategically important NATO member, and considering Russian aggression in Ukraine and the ongoing conflict in the Middle East, Washington is unable to just turn the screws on the strongman.
During a meeting with reporters on Monday, the press secretary for the Council on National Security, John Kirby, seemed as if he was stuck in neutral when asked about the topic.
Kirby has stated that the United States of America is pleased with the manner in which the Turkish people have been able to peacefully voice their preferences at the voting box. The people of Turkey have the power to decide how their government should be structured.
Both Erdogan and his top competitor Kemal Kilicdaroglu failed to get over fifty percent of the overall vote on Sunday, which means that they will have to compete against one another again on May 28.
During the past few months, former American officials and experts who work with Biden’s staff have, according to statements made by those individuals, kept quiet about their choices. Some people believe that a lot of government employees would rather bid Erdoan farewell due to his poor performance on democracy and rights for humans. This theory is based on the hypothesis that Erdogan has a poor track record on these issues.
Having said that, they are sufficiently grounded in reality to understand that Erdogan, who has ruled Turkey for the past two decades and exerts an enormous amount of influence over the country’s media, will most likely emerge victorious in the election.
Kilicdaroglu’s performance in the first round was below expectations, which provided Erdogan with a boost of momentum heading into the runoff.
The typical argument made by the United States is that it does not intervene in foreign elections in any way other than encouraging them to be democratic, equitable, and non-violent. This is one of the reasons why the Biden administration is hesitant to speak out against the situation.
However, the government may also wish to avoid doing anything that could provide fuel for Erdoan’s candidacy. The Turkish ruler is skilled at appealing to anti-Americanism in order to get votes; he has suggested that members of the opposition are collaborating with the government in Washington. Additionally, he criticized the United States Ambassador to Turkey, Jeff Flake, for meeting with Kilicdaroglu.
Charles Kupchan, previously a senior officer at the National Security Council, stated that there has been some improvement in the ties between Ankara and Washington.
After twisting his feet for quite some time, the Turkish leader finally agreed to let Finland become a member of NATO. Political figures in Sweden are holding out hope that once the constraints of the election have passed, he will do the same thing for their nation as well.
In the meantime, the United States has just given the green light for the sale of software to Turkey in order to assist that country in modernizing its fighter aircraft, the F-16.
Kupchan believes that President Biden and his team will be realistic about the current Turkish government and cooperate with Erdoan as much as feasible.
On the other hand, Turkey and the United States continue to disagree on a number of issues, the most important of which is how to tackle the ongoing problems in Syria, in addition to Russia.
Despite the severe economic sanctions imposed by the West on Russia for its annexation of Ukraine, Russia, and Turkey have, in some respects, strengthened their commercial connections. However, Erdogan is also an essential liaison between the Russia and West, particularly in a project that aims to allow for exports of grain. This project is one example.
According to Soner Cagaptay, a scholar who has written many books on Turkey, due to the presence of all of these elements, officials from the United States were required to proceed cautiously throughout the initial phase, and it is probable that they will continue to do so during the runoff as well.
Cagaptay claimed that Washington’s objective was to ‘do no harm,’ with a belief that possibly Kilicdarolu would win, but that it was quite unlikely that he would.