Erdoğan ‘preparing for the worst’ under Biden - Bloomberg

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s decision to congratulate U.S. President-elect Joe Biden following his election win could indicate Turkey’s concerns over potential sanctions and heavy penalties over a series of issues Erdoğan had been balancing under Donald Trump’s presidency, said Bloomberg on Tuesday.

By the end of Biden’s term as vice president in 2017, Turkey’s relationship with the United States had devolved from a close partnership to mutual distrust, Bloomberg said.

In an interview with the New York Times published in January, Biden called Erdoğan an “autocrat” and expressed support for Turkish opposition to oust the Turkish president at the ballot box. “He has to pay a price,” he said.

According to Bloomberg, that price could be significant.

Turkey faces possible sanctions over its purchase of the Russian-made S-400 missile defence systems, which the United States maintains are incompatible with NATO weaponry and pose a security risk. In both the house and the senate, there is bipartisan support for sanctions, which have been held back mostly due to Trump’s personal friendship with Erdoğan.

Turkey’s state-owned Halkbank is also facing charges of fraud and money laundering in the United States over a Iranian-Turkish sanctions evasion scheme. The lead prosecutor in the case stepped down after a Trump showdown, but the next hearing is scheduled for March, after Biden takes office.

Biden and Erdoğan also have unresolved differences over the status of Syrian Kurds, Turkey’s maritime claims in the eastern Mediterranean and its ongoing dispute with Greece and Cyprus, as well as other areas are some of other problematic issues, which complicates the relations, Bloomberg said.

Bloomberg also pointed to Erdoğan’s Saturday comments, pushing back against the idea that Turkey’s recent befriending of Russia was a turn away from the west.

“We do not see our recently deepening cooperation with Russia as an alternative to our deep-rooted ties with America,” Erdoğan said in a Halifax International Security Forum session, and on Sunday, he called for closer cooperation with Europe, with which he’s been sparring for months.

“Erdogan appears to be preparing for the worst,” said Bloomberg. The Turkish president’s recent comments, together with comments from Justice Minister Abdulhamit Gül and the announcement of judicial reform, have been read as signs that the government preparing for the change in U.S. leadership.

But still, Erdoğan’s government has taken some precautions to relieve energy and mining companies abroad, should they be hit with U.S. sanctions. In a bill that passed parliament last week, Turkey granted companies in the sector the right to carry their overseas operations back under Turkish jurisdiction as a degree of protection.