Expert says US-Turkey ties will remain transactional

Turkey-U.S. relations will remain within the confines of transactionalism and the two sides will work together on an issue-by-issue basis, Dimitar Bechev, Europe’s Futures Fellow at the Institute of Human Sciences in Vienna, wrote in an article for Al Jazeera on Saturday.

On October 31, US President Joe Biden and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan met on the margins of the G20 gathering in Rome amid strained ties between the two countries.

Bechev maintained that although Turkish-American relations are at an all-time low, the meeting demonstrated that the two countries are still open to mending relations.

“At a moment when all its neighbors, from Greece to Russia to Iran, are upgrading their military capabilities, Turkey cannot afford to lag behind,” he wrote.

Ankara is also still dependent on Western military technology to assert its strategic autonomy.

Furthermore, NATO, which is still endorsed by the majority of Turkish citizens, remains central to Turkey’s national security in an era of uncertainty and Russia’s military buildup on the opposite side of the Black Sea, Bechev noted.

He also pointed out that Turkey remains reliant on international financial markets at a time when its domestic economy has been weakened and its

currency has lost 80 percent of its value over the past decade. Therefore, a rupture in relations with the U.S. and the West is likely to jeopardize Turkey’s economic stability.

In the meantime, Turkey's sale of Bayraktar TB2 armed drones to Ukraine demonstrates its strategic value for NATO's eastern flank, where Russia poses a formidable challenge. Ukrainian forces announced that Turkish drones were already used against the pro-Russian separatists on the battlefront in the Donbas.

Turkey competes with Russia in the Middle East and North Africa, primarily in Libya and Syria.

“US and Turkey are operating in a grey zone,” Bechev wrote. “The alliance is hanging by a thread, but it is too early to pronounce its demise. Transactionalism is the order of the day and it is likely the two sides will work on an issue-by-issue basis.”

According to Bechev, Washington and Ankara are likely to cooperate in limited ways through NATO.

“A deal on the F-16s is not unlikely either, despite opposition in Congress,” Bechev wrote.

He also anticipates that the U.S. “will not be rattled by a new Turkish operation Syria either if the deconfliction rules established between the two militaries on the ground hold.”

Nevertheless, the U.S. will continue to “watch warily Turkey’s engagement with Russia and, increasingly, China.”

Biden will be more outspoken on Turkish domestic politics too, unlike Trump,” Bechev wrote.

“There is bound to be more friction in the future.”

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