With a new administration in the White House, there is hope for a new direction in foreign policy. However, Turkey may not be one of those who will enjoy a change in relations with Washington, recent statements by Biden's Secretary of State nominee Antony Blinken suggest. The yet-to-be-appointed top diplomat accused Turkey of behaving in a way that is "not acceptable" for a "so-called strategic partner" of the US as he testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on 20 January.
Blinken specifically slammed Ankara's decision to buy air defence systems from Russia. This indicates that Biden's administration is not interested in creating a joint working group with Turkey to iron-out disagreements revolving around the purchase of the Russian S-400 systems, Hakki Pekin, former head of Turkey's military intelligence believes.
"The Biden administration started to openly threaten Turkey even before they assumed their offices", Pekin says.
One of the things that will remain unchanged under the new White House team is its intent to use sanctions as a pressure tool against Turkey. Blinken mulled the possibility of expanding existing anti-Turkey sanctions following an analysis of their impact as he spoke during his Senate confirmation hearing. This approach is indicative of the US attitude towards Turkey, Pekin stresses. According to him, Washington wants unquestionable obedience from Ankara, even if it comes at the expense of Turkey's own national interests.
But Ankara's decision to buy defence systems from Russia rather than from a NATO ally did not come out of the blue. Several years of attempts to buy Patriots from the US preceded the move, but Washington effectively stalled the decision on selling the defence system. The permission to sell came only after Turkey had already announced that it had closed a deal for Russian S-400s, but at this point Ankara was not ready to back away from its agreement with Moscow.
Now, the incoming US top diplomat has accused Turkey of "not acting as an ally should", thus hinting that despite having been a NATO member for 70 years, Ankara is nothing more than a "so-called strategic partner", Pekin suggests.
"Everything is fine as long as we act in their interests", the ex-spy chief laments.
US Biggest Threat to Turkish National Interests
However, Turkey's acquisition of S-400s is not the only thing that Washington and Ankara have disagreements about. Tensions are also running high on the issue of US aid to Kurdish forces in Syria, which the Turkish government regards as terrorist groups. The White House has also repeatedly denied Ankara's extradition requests for opposition cleric Fethullah Gülen, whom Turkey accuses of orchestrating a major coup attempt in 2016, which ultimately failed due to the actions of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and the Turkish military, which remained loyal to him.
When it comes to Turkish national interests, the US is one of the biggest threats, Pekin believes. In particular, he recalls the US actions in Syria, their opposition to Ankara's claims regarding Cyprus and nearby offshore resources, as well as disagreements over the situation in the civil war-ravaged Libya, where Turkey supports the UN-recognised Government of National Accord in its conflict against the Libyan National Army.