Show an ad over header. AMP

Trump's Turkey sanctions could give Erdoğan and Biden a clean slate

President Trump’s imposition of long-awaited sanctions on Turkey this week over its purchase of a Russian S-400 missile defense system illustrates the fragile state of a critical relationship — but it may also allow President-elect Joe Biden to start fresh with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

Why it matters: Erdoğan raged against the sanctions, which target Turkey’s defense procurement agency and the agency’s leaders, as a “hostile attack” from a NATO ally. Trump had resisted pressure to impose them, but Congress forced his hand.


The big picture: While Erdoğan maintained a strong personal relationship with Trump over the last four years, many others in Washington were growing increasingly concerned by his muscular regional policies and warming ties with Russia.

  • Enter Biden. His promises to revitalize multilateralism and prioritize relations with countries that “share our democratic values” — not to mention his skewering of Trump for embracing “all the thugs in the world” — pose very different challenges for Erdoğan.
  • The two also have a history. As vice president in 2014, Biden called Erdoğan an "autocrat" and said he would support the opposition's efforts to defeat him. (Biden later issued an official apology).

What to watch: Soner Cagaptay, a fellow at the Washington Institute and author of "Erdoğan’s Empire," expects Erdoğan to open with a charm offensive.

  • The Turkish president is a “shapeshifter” who “becomes what every U.S. president wants to see in their Turkish counterpart” — in Biden’s case, an “internationalist, reformer, healer.”
  • “He wants to reverse this narrative of free-falling ties,” Cagaptay says, because it’s damaging for Turkey’s struggling economy and leads others to question whether the U.S. military really stands behind Turkey.

Biden has incentives of his own to patch things up. Turkey could play the role of either facilitator or spoiler in two of Biden’s top foreign policy focuses: Iran and Russia.

  • And while Biden will include human rights and democracy in the relationship, Cagaptay says, Erdoğan will attempt to placate him, perhaps by releasing some political prisoners.

Yes, but: This will be a deeply complicated relationship, and it could quickly turn contentious.

  • Russia, which has massive geopolitical and economic leverage over Turkey, wants to expand the U.S.-Turkey divide. Moscow could pressure Ankara to switch the S-400 system on. That would provoke both the U.S. and NATO, which views the Russian system as a threat.
  • Erdoğan would likely choose a fight with Biden over one with Putin, Cagaptay says. He’s already involved in squabbles with the EU over immigration and gas exploration that could also pull in the Biden administration.
  • Further crackdowns by Erdoğan on the political opposition would also generate backlash.

The bottom line: “Erdoğan’s relations with U.S. presidents start well,” Cagaptay says. “They never end well.”

Several Republican and Democratic lawmakers emerge as troublemakers

Several Republican and Democratic lawmakers are emerging as troublemakers within their parties and political thorns for their leadership.

Why it matters: We're calling this group "The Mischief Makers" — members who threaten to upend party unity — the theme eclipsing Washington at the moment — and potentially jeopardize the Democrats' or Republicans' position heading into the 2022 midterms.

Keep reading... Show less

Former Obama speechwriter "preemptively frustrated" with Biden's unity efforts

President Obama's former speechwriter says he's "preemptively frustrated" with President Biden's effort to find unity with Republicans.

What they're saying: Cody Keenan told Axios that Biden's messaging team has "struck all the right chords," but at some point "they're gonna have to answer questions like, 'Why didn't you achieve unity?' when there's an entire political party that's already acting to stop it."

Keep reading... Show less

Conservative group puts $700k behind Hawley

A Republican group is raising and spending huge amounts of money defending Sen. Josh Hawley after he was ostracized for early January’s attack on the U.S. Capitol.

Why it matters: The Senate Conservatives Fund is backfilling lost corporate and personal donations with needed political and financial support, helping inoculate the Missouri lawmaker as he weighs re-election or a possible presidential campaign in 2024.

Keep reading... Show less

Kaine, Collins' censure resolution could bar Trump from holding office again

Sens. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine) are forging ahead with a draft proposal to censure former President Trump, and are considering introducing the resolution on the Senate floor next week.

Why it matters: Senators are looking for a way to condemn Trump on the record as it becomes increasingly unlikely Democrats will obtain the 17 Republican votes needed to gain a conviction, Axios Alayna Treene writes. "I think it’s important for the Senate's leadership to understand that there are alternatives," Kaine told CNN on Wednesday.

Keep reading... Show less

"Roz" Brewer will become only the 2nd Black woman to permanently lead a Fortune 500 company

Rosalind "Roz" Brewer is about to become only the second Black woman to permanently lead a Fortune 500 company. She starts as Walgreens CEO on March 15.

Why it matters: It's a stark reminder of how far corporate America's top decision-makers have to go during an unprecedented push by politicians, employees and even a stock exchange to diversify their top ranks.

Keep reading... Show less

Apple's quarterly sales top $100 billion for first time

Spurred by strong sales of the latest iPhones, Apple reported it took in a record $111 billion in revenue for the three months ended Dec. 31, as the company crushed expectations.

Why it matters: The move showed even a pandemic didn't dull demand for Apple's latest smartphones.

Keep reading... Show less

Facebook stock whipsaws amid ad targeting concerns

Facebook's stock showed volatility in after-hours trading Wednesday, despite adding users and beating on top and bottom lines.

Why it matters: Investors seem spooked by proposed changes to user data collection by Apple that would impact Facebook's ad business, in addition to perennial threats of new federal privacy regulations.

Keep reading... Show less

Fed chair says low interest rates aren't driving stock market prices

Federal Reserve chairman Jerome Powell told reporters on Wednesday that rock-bottom interest rates aren't playing a role in driving stock prices higher, while noting that vulnerabilities to the financial system are "moderate."

Why it matters: The statement comes amid unshakeable stock prices and a Reddit-fueled market frenzy — prompting widespread fears of a bubble and the role monetary policy has played in that.

Keep reading... Show less

Insights

mail-copy

Get Goodhumans in your inbox

Most Read

More Stories