Erdogan Plays Biden Again, now on F-16s – Both National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan and the State Department praised Turkey for re-establishing full diplomatic relations with Israel several years after Turkey withdrew its ambassador from the Jewish state. “This move will bring increased security, stability, and prosperity to their peoples as well as the region,” Sullivan tweeted.
Sullivan speaks too soon and plays into Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s hands. While Erdogan feigns moderation and receives White House goodwill in return, the Turkish president remains two-faced. Just hours before Sullivan praised Erdogan, the Russian press announced that Turkey had signed a new contract to both purchase additional S-400s from Russia and produce parts locally for the S-400 system. This is essentially a middle finger to the Biden administration after the White House and State Department went to bat for Turkey by endorsing the sale to it of upgraded F-16s.
Erdoǧan’s duplicity surprises less than the gullibility of those inclined to see his goodwill. In his heart, Erdogan is an ideologue. He remains deeply anti-Semitic, anti-Israel, and anti-American. Whereas he seeks to benefit from NATO membership, he shows his true attitude toward the defensive alliance with the arrests of officers whose only sin is long service in NATO offices and his willingness to engage in transactional bidding wars with its adversaries.
Today, Sullivan and the State Department’s Turkey desk might see a new moderation in Turkey, but this is for show only. With inflation topping 80 percent, Erdoǧan realizes he needs outside support. After years of economic mismanagement, Turkey’s foreign reserves are near empty. Creative accounting can no longer cover the deficits and Qatar, the rich Persian Gulf emirate that has bankrolled Erdogan from the start has reached its limit. Erdogan hopes that a more moderate face may allow him to expedite emergency loans from international lenders without other countries seeking to use Turkey’s desperate straits to extract concessions.