On February 3, 2021, US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan officially announced that Washington was alarmed by the consequences of contacts between Ankara and Moscow regarding the acquisition of the S-400 air defense system. According to the American politician, such “hostile” behavior of Turkey from Washington’s perspective may negatively affect the status of NATO as an organization still pursuing the goal of confronting Russia.
Three months earlier, the United States imposed sanctions against a number of Turkish politicians and entrepreneurs, blocked the training program for Turkish pilots on F-35 aircraft, and also refused to issue licenses to sell certain types of weapons to Turkey. Such restrictions were introduced by the Donald Trump administration, and, according to Recep Erdogan, the new White House administration will abandon the previously imposed sanctions. However, on February 6, 2021, a US defense official confirmed that Joe Biden did not intend to ease the pressure on Ankara.
It is worth emphasizing that the strength of the impact of this trigger in relations between the United States and Turkey is complemented by a whole series of other factors, among which the desire to create conditions under which cooperation between Recep Erdogan and Vladimir Putin would be impossible is of great importance. Confirming this argument, back in January 2021, the head of the American State Department Antony Blinken, speaking before the participants in the meeting of the Committee on Foreign Relations of the US Senate, noted that Washington, with a high degree of probability, will continue to put pressure on Ankara, demanding that it refuse to interact with Russia. This statement was repeated by Antony Blinken on February 15, 2021, during his official visit to the Turkish capital.
Among other things, there are a number of other reasons that prompted Joe Biden to increase pressure on Ankara. While still a candidate for the US presidency, he called the protection of human rights one of the priority areas of his policy. At the same time, Joe Biden threatened countries where, in his opinion, human rights are grossly violated (Saudi Arabia, Turkey), with American punishment. In his statements, he generally called Recep Erdogan a “tyrant”, accusing him of genocide of Kurds, Armenians and suppression of internal opposition. This view was formally brought to the attention of the Turkish administration during a visit to Ankara by US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan on February 3, 2021. Based on this, Washington, using the Russian factor, is trying to put pressure on Recep Erdogan, demanding that he limit his actions in the north-east of Syria and the South Caucasus. However, the Americans, in this case, are hardly particularly interested in the fate of the Kurds or Armenians. Washington is concerned about the need to retain oil fields in the areas of concentration of SDF in Syria and Peshmerga in Iraq, as well as in the zone of Armenian-Azerbaijani interests, where the Turks create certain obstacles.
Of course, the Kurdish problem occupies an important place in the negotiation process between Washington and Ankara. The United States considers them as allies only because they allow the uninterrupted operation of oil wells located in Syria and Iraq under the control of the American military. In this regard, the Kurds represent the most important tool for the expropriation of natural resources for the United States. In turn, the Turks also intend to seize the lion’s share of the proven oil fields in northeastern Syria and northern Iraq. Washington really doesn’t like this. For this reason alone, on February 14, the United States questioned the deaths of 13 Turkish citizens in Iraqi Kurdistan. As a result, tensions between Recep Erdogan and Joe Biden have reached a “boiling point.” The Turkish leader began to accuse the American administration of supporting terrorists, thereby aggravating the already tense relations between the countries.
Nevertheless, there are also optimistic forecasts according to which the US-Turkish crisis will soon end with minimal losses for each of the parties. In particular, in the interests of the United States, Recep Erdogan reaffirmed in the international arena his desire to normalize relations with Greece in the Eastern Mediterranean. Talks between Ankara and Athens resumed on January 25, 2021. This made it possible to somewhat stabilize the situation within the North Atlantic Alliance and serve as a guarantee for the United States that Recep Erdogan is capable of making concessions. Nevertheless, Russian-Turkish relations still remain the main trigger for the American administration. And, in this case, Ankara, in order to show loyalty to Joe Biden, but at the same time not wanting to offend Vladimir Putin, is likely to resort to cunning. In particular, the Turks are unlikely to refuse to buy Russian S-400 systems, but they will not strictly adhere to the provisions of the concluded agreement, preferring either to resell weapons to third countries, including the United States, or not to put them into operation at all on their territory.