The US and Turkey have been allies in NATO since 1952 and have important common interests. However, it is difficult to align their emerging priorities, regardless of who governs the two countries, based on their geography, threats and regional role. These are some of the conclusions in the publication by the Congressional research Service entitled “Turkey: Background and U.S. Relations In Brief.”
In security, economy and institutions, Turkey remains aligned to the West, as shown by the vital US military facilities in the country, or its close economic relations with the EU.
However, many factors make it difficult for the US-Turkey relationship to remain firm. For example, Turkey is associated with countries such as Russia and Iran to meet its energy needs and regional security and thus balances diplomacy among different actors.
In addition, Turkish President Erdogan considers that the United States and some Western countries support, within Turkey, groups that he is oppressing. Turkey has played its own role in the Middle East since the 2000s but suffered a series of defeats and its relationship with Israel is problematic, as are relations with most Sunni countries other than Qatar.
Bilateral relations between the Trump and Erdogan governments are difficult, but have improved since October 2018 when Turkey liberated American pastor Branson. However, issues remain. One of these is the risk that the F-35 will not be delivered to Turkey due to the purchase of Russian S-400 missiles. This purchase could result in the imposition of US sanctions on Turkey.
Also, the Russian missile purchase raises worries in the West in general about Ankara-Moscow relations and also raises concerns in NATO. US officials are trying to prevent the sale by offering Erdogan Patriot missiles.
A second and very important issue has to do with the Syrian Kurds, which the US supports, despite Ankara’s reactions. In December 2018, President Trump announced the withdrawal of US forces from Syria after a phone call to Erdogan.
Erdogan assumed responsibility for the war against the Islamic State. Efforts to coordinate the Americans and Turks on the withdrawal of US forces have sparked talks about the consequences for the Kurds from any Turkish intervention. For Turkey, the Kurds of Syria are associated with the PKK.
Another problem concerns initiatives against Turkey in the US Congress related to the S-400 missile sale. Last but not least, Erdogan’s authoritarian rule and the problems in the Turkish economy have led to the sinking of the Turkish lira.
The next step in US-Turkish relations will come at the moment Turkey faces a series of political and economic challenges. Given theErdogan’s virtual monopoly of power, analysts are wondering how he will move into a polarized political environment within the country and how he will relate to the various actors abroad who can influence Turkey’s political power, economic stability and regional security.
US lawmakers and officials can study the complex Turkish history, geography, internal dynamics and international relations to encourage Turkey to turn its policy toward American interests.
read the report here.