A major diplomatic game will take place in the middle of June with the face-to-face meetings between the president of the United States, Joe Biden, and his Turkish counterpart, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and his subsequent meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, which may shape a new situation in Southeastern Europe and the Near East.
The eye of the hurricane in these movements is Turkey, which Biden would like to bring back into the fold in any way. On the other side, Putin desires for his Turkish counterpart to retains his “independence,” despite the significant divergence in the strategic goals of Ankara and Moscow.
Biden’s main goal is containing Turkish ambitions for acting as a regional power, which has pushed it beyond the “accepted” limits of the West. The most significant pressure being exerted by Washington to “align” Ankara with the interests of the Alliance concerns the removal of the Russian S-400 missile defense system from Turkey.
It is clear that Biden is using this to show – Russia, obviously – that he is the indisputable leader of the NATO partnership. But it is doubtful if Erdogan will acquiesce beyond sending away the Russian engineers in Turkey, whose mission in any case has been completed.
In any case, Turkey ended up purchasing the Russian defense system after President Barack Obama refused to sell the equivalent-Patriot system.
A priority issue for Ankara is the stance of the United States towards the Kurds of Syria, who are seen as allies by the US but, according to Erdogan, are scheming with the Kurds of Turkey to partition his country.
The mood at the meeting will be tense and the diplomatic starting point of the position held by the two politicians could even be described as confrontational. But a full-blown rift is good for no one.
It is a given that the mood towards Erdogan which started to foul during the final years of the Obama administration, continues in the Biden administration. But the US president does not want relations between Moscow and Ankara to continue improving.
The main problem of this initial phase is that both Biden’s and Erdogan’s prestige is at stake during the management of these important issues. The issue is whether personal politics will ultimately win out over diplomacy.
Putin only has to wait, having prepared his next moves for all eventualities. Europe hopes to avoid a confrontation. Greece hopes that all of this might lead to some relief from Turkish pressure. It is truly a gripping situation.