This article was written on the morning of June 30, more than 12 hours after President Tayyip Erdoğan and US President Joe Biden met at the NATO Summit in Madrid. The first statement was issued by the USA half an hour after the meeting, but there hadn’t been any statement from the Turkish side until half a day later. And the strike came from Sweden’s Foreign Minister Ann Linde who granted NATO membership approval from Erdoğan a day before. While Erdoğan was in the meeting with Biden, Linde made a statement saying: “We did not give in Erdoğan”
“We will not consent to any extradition unless there is evidence of terrorist activity,” she added.
Having in mind that Sweden will hold the elections soon and the current minority government owes its vote of confidence to the single vote of the Iranian-Kurdish parliamentarian who does not hide her pro-PKK stance, do you think the Foreign Minister of this government said those words with domestic politics calculations? They are already bragging that “we did not call PYD, YPG and FETO terrorist organizations, we said we will not help them”.
Even later, Finnish President Sauli Niistö said that the mention of the YPG in the memorandum of understanding between Finland, Sweden and Turkey is worded so that Finland can continue its humanitarian aid. “We weren’t so keen to see those organizations like YPG mentioned in the document because there is a big difference between how other NATO countries see them and how Turkey sees them. Turkey calls them terrorists, ”Niinistö said.
From here we should continue with what the White House’s statement said about the meeting aside from Türkiye’s pro-government media headlines reading “Erdogan got what he wanted”.
The Aegean and Syria in, but F-16 not
The five-sentence statement of the White House regarding the meeting is as follows, apart from the sentence “met today on the margins of the NATO summit” in the introduction:
1- President Biden welcomed Turkey’s conclusion of a trilateral agreement with Finland and Sweden that paved the way for the allies to invite them to join NATO.
2- The leaders discussed their continued support for Ukraine in its defense against Russian aggression, as well as the importance of removing Russian obstacles to the export of Ukrainian grain.
3- They also talked about the importance of maintaining stability in the Aegean and Syria.
4- Biden reiterated his desire to maintain constructive bilateral relations (between Turkey and the US), and the two leaders agreed on the importance of continued close consultations between governments.
To sum up, the Aegean, which is the subject of the European Union’s outburst about Greece and Cyprus that angered Turkey just last week, was discussed; Syria, in which the USA, the EU and interestingly Russia expressed their discomfort about Turkey’s possible new military operation against PKK/YPG, was discussed; but the F-16 sale, which Erdoğan said was on the table, was not discussed.
But Biden promised
Obviously, Erdogan brought up the F-16 issue, but Biden only promised, he said he would deal with it as soon as he returned to the USA. Under all these “Victory” statements, Erdogan seems to have taken a lot of promises.
True, as soon as Sweden got the approval from Erdogan, it struck its first goal, saying “we didn’t give in”. It seems difficult for them to extradite publisher and writer Ragıp Zarakolu, who is on the “desired terrorists” list of Minister of Justice Bekir Bozdağ, as a “PKK terrorist” and journalist Bülent Keneş as a “FETÖ terrorist”. But for example, the extradition of PKK confessor Aziz Turan (Abdulkadir Aygan), who is wanted for the murder of Kurdish writer and journalist Musa Anter, the case of which is about to exceed its term of limitation, may even bother some people in Ankara.
Let’s not get off-topic. The Russians were already saying that Erdogan’s “adolescent diplomacy”, in Turkish journalist Mehmet Yılmaz’s words, was only for domestic policy purposes, and that Sweden and Finland’s decision to join NATO had already been taken. Namik Tan, one of the former Turkish Ambassadors to Washington and an experienced diplomat explained how the USA, without coming to the fore, paved the way for NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, with behind-the-scenes diplomacy and the support of the UK and how Stoltenberg, who gained Ankara’s trust, had persuaded Erdoğan to gather with Sweden and Finland before the NATO Summit in his detailed analysis.
And an Aegean-Cyprus detail
Perhaps due to the Aegean conversation during the Biden-Erdogan meeting, Greek Cypriot President Nikos Anastasiades approached Erdogan at an “unofficial” dinner and had a quick chat with him; We learn from CHP Deputy Utku Çakırözer’s tweet.
But Erdogan refused to meet with Greek Prime Minister Mitsotakis. “That chapter is over, I won’t meet,” says Erdogan. Do you think he will not?
No need to talk, a phone call was enough
At this point, I need to make self-criticism. Based on the general attitude of Erdogan’s statements and the Ankara diplomacy backdrop, I thought Erdogan could say “No” at the NATO Summit as well, so he would force Biden, who is preparing for a tough election in November, against the US Congress, which will go on recess in August. There were already Swedish elections in September. Although, even while making this estimation, I wrote that the whole process is being carried out by the USA, which does not stand out, and that Erdogan’s biggest difficulty is the risk of not being able to continue his foreign policy insistence due to the economic crisis in the country.
Therefore, Erdogan’s request to meet with Biden, especially after the dazzling reception for Greek Prime Minister Kriyakos Mitsotakis in the United States, could have been decisive.
However, it is seen that Biden calling and offering a meeting was enough. It can be deduced from this that Biden told Erdogan that Turkey would not want to be a spoiler of the game against Russia “in these days when unity and solidarity are needed more than ever”, not with the phrase “don’t be stupid” like Donald Trump, but with the appropriate language.
Biden seems to have applied the words of the founder of communism, Karl Marx, “infrastructure determines superstructure”.
As for the purchase of the F-16
During the Erdogan-Biden meeting, a statement came from the US Department of Defense. They supported the sale of F-16s to Turkey. Earlier, the US Department of State had conveyed its support to Congress in an official letter.
Of course, it is Congress to decide. It seems that Biden’s influence on Congress will weaken after the November elections.
But the decision to sell F-16s to Turkey seems more likely after Erdogan approves of NATO membership to Sweden and Finland, thus strengthening NATO against Russia. This pleases the Minister of National Defense Hulusi Akar the most. Already, in the NATO 2023 Strategic Concept adopted yesterday, priority is given to the Black Sea and the Western Balkans; Strengthening Turkey’s air power means strengthening NATO’s Southeast flank. The USA also looks at the Greek, Cyprus and Aegean issues from this perspective.
The question here is whether the F-16s will come before the election as Erdogan wants. Perhaps, until Congressional approval is awaited, the US administration will find other ways of supporting Turkey on the grounds of the “increasing threat from Russia”. Who knows?
Self-defeating not being fooled
From Akit to Hürriyet, from Sabah to Milliyet, the headlines of all pro-government newspapers wrote that Erdoğan “got what he wanted”. Some even escalated their inferiority complex to the next level and wrote that the European press had also written it like this. It reminded me of Nazım Hikmet’s famous poem “Traitor”.
It was the Türkiye newspaper that stood close to reality among these newspapers. With the headline “We have the right to veto ”, it wrote that the membership process of Sweden and Finland would take 8 months and that if these countries do not keep their word, Turkey will still prevent them from joining NATO.
Eight months on paper brings us to February-March 2023. That is, on the eve of the elections in Turkey. Do you think Erdogan, no matter what Sweden and Finland do, will make this move that will further collapse the economy failing to resist the temptation to present it to his electorate as a “leader who challenges the world”? I think it’s difficult.
He probably will complain, perhaps as he said to the Fethullahists after the 2016 coup attempt, he will say “We have been deceived, may my Lord forgive us”. But this time, it is not being fooled, it is self-defeating.