Will Congress change its perception of Turkey?
A Joe Biden administration will still bring with a US Congress and a Senate that could complicate the Turkey-US relationship.
Although President Trump insists on not recognizing Joe Biden as president-elect, despite the latter receiving 79 million ballots and 306 electoral votes, Biden is going ahead with the transition.
President Trump, on the other hand, claiming he won the election, is putting his efforts into corraling public opinion towards the notion that Biden’s victory was fraudulent, which seems to be working as the polls indicate that 75 percent of Republicans believe Biden’s victory was not fraud-free.
Considering that 73 million voted for Trump, Trump is clearly after an early campaign for 2024. Although Trump’s campaign raised objections to the elections in five states, there is no significant voter fraud and President Trump couldn’t get what he expected in Pennsylvania, Michigan and Georgia, either.
Recently, a federal judge dismissed President Trump’s lawsuit seeking to delay certification in Pennsylvania.
In brief, we are getting close to the end. So, what will happen in the US Congress in the new term?
Democrats retained the majority in the House of Representatives as expected. In the new term, Democrats won 222 seats while giving away 11 to Republicans.
Republicans, on the other hand, lost three seats, and they won only and unexpectedly in certain regions where Latino voters have a strong presence. The House of Representatives passed the resolution on the so-called Armenian Genocide, a recall from the previous term, by a vote of 405–11; additionally, it passed the sanction bills on Turkey over the military operation in northern Syria by a vote of 403–16.
What played a big role here was the effort put in by Nancy Pelosi, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, and other anti-Turkish groups. We clearly see that the picture in the House of Representatives will not change very much in 2021.
Georgia will decide
The situation in the US Senate, on the other hand, is a bit different. Frankly speaking, all eyes are on Georgia. In the Senate, the Republicans hold 50 seats, while the Democrats hold 48. The runoff election in Georgia next January will determine which way the two seats go.
If the Democrats win the remaining two seats, with the tie-breaking vote for Vice President-elect Harris, the majority will be Democrats.
Losing even one seat to Republicans is bad news for Biden, as he will have to negotiate with them to pass laws and for political appointments.
As for Turkey, only the so-called Armenian Genocide resolution was passed during the previous term, while the sanction bill on Turkey over the military operations in northern Syria was not introduced to the Congress, thanks to Senate Majority Leader McConnell, a Trump associate.
Long story short, a Democrat majority is bad news for Turkey, although it does not necessarily mean that if the Republicans win, they will not consider anything Turkey-related twice. What is evident here is that both sides have already agreed on sanctions the moment Turkey deploys S400s.
This month, the Congressional Research Center, which the Congress follows attentively, published a 17-page revised report on Turkey. The report provides fascinating insights into the domestic policy and recent economic developments in Turkey, as well as the Turkish defence industry. The report points out that most members of Congress reflect Turkish domestic and foreign policies in their bills, and new sanctions are likely to be imposed against Turkey in the new term as well.
The future of relations between the US and Turkey may depend on a series of factors:
• Whether Turkey fully deploys the Russian S-400 system and considers additional Russian arms purchases;
• Various regional crises (the disputes with Syria, Libya, Nagorno-Karabakh, the Eastern Mediterranean, and Cyprus) and the people who influence the relations between Turkey and key countries (including the United States, Russia, China, the European Union, Israel, Iran, and Sunni Arab states)
• Whether Turkey creates its sphere of influence by using military power
• Whether President Erdogan is able to maintain broad control over the country given its economic problems and human rights concerns.
One thing for sure is that we cannot think of President-elect Biden and the Congress independently; however, if you recall, President Trump did not or was not able to shield Turkey against some bills.
Therefore, setting aside many issues that are beyond Biden, it is Pelosi, and Chuck Schumer, the prospective Senate Majority Leader, we are talking about, both of whom are known to have an issue with Turkey.
What Turkey needs to do in the new term
It will be of great significance if Turkey improves diplomatic relations with the White House. The supra political deputies of the Grand National Assembly of Turkey should visit DC — and not for a few photos — and the leaders of NGOs and the business world in Turkey negotiate with their counterparts in the US.
Although Biden speaks against Turkey, as someone who knows Erdogan closely, it is important that a new channel of communication is facilitated between them.
However, this should be on a more professional ground and upon a serious series of planning rather than the individual efforts of a few people from the channels close to the Biden family or their acquaintances.
We can clearly see an anti-Turkey perception, not only in the Biden administration but also in many different institutions, including Congress and groups on Capitol Hill. Therefore, it will be important to win back allies and find new friends of Turkey against the anti-Turkish groups.