President Joe Biden is expected to formally recognize Turkey’s role in the systematic ethnic destruction and genocide of approximately 1.5 million Armenians during World War I.
White House officials said they expect Biden to make the announcement Saturday, according to The New York Times, a decision that has received praise from officials within the Armenian government.
“The recognition by the United States will be a kind of moral beacon to many countries,” Armenian Foreign Minister Ara Aivazian told The Times. “This is not about Armenia and Turkey. This is about our obligation to recognize and condemn the past, present and future genocide.”
The Turkish Foreign Ministry, however, denies allegations of genocide, saying: “The totality of evidence thus far uncovered by historians tells a grim story of serious intercommunal conflict, perpetrated by both Christian and Muslim irregular forces, complicated by disease, famine, and many other of war’s privations. The evidence does not, however, describe genocide.”
Currently, 30 countries officially recognize the state-sponsored atrocities, with the most concern coming from Europe and the Americas. With the decision, the United States will join four G7 nations — Italy, Canada, France and Germany.
The announcement is expected to further complicate Turkey’s strategic membership in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. Historically, Turkey has served a significant role in projecting the West’s influence in a critical region demarcating Europe and the Middle East.
Since the dissolution of the Soviet threat, Turkey’s strategic importance has waned. Washington and Ankara have maintained bilateral relations, but the designation is expected to damage an already frayed relationship.
Once considered a beacon of secular democracy in the Middle East, Turkey’s conservative populist political party — the Justice and Development Party — has been in power since 2003.
But in recent years, the ruling party has abandoned key commitments to secular constitutionalism and accelerated a descent into democratic regression. According to the Stockholm Center for Freedom, Turkey now is considered an electoral autocracy, ranking after Egypt, Eswatini and the Republic of the Congo.
Current U.S.-Turkish bilateral relations have proved testy. According to Foreign Policy, Biden didn’t call Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan upon taking office.
And months later, the White House condemned Turkey for its “sudden and unwarranted withdrawal” from the Council of Europe Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence Against Women and Domestic Violence despite being the first nation to sign the convention.
These moves appear to follow suit with Biden’s “secret-sauce” diplomacy, a foreign policy that is expected to stymie diplomatic efforts with the People’s Republic of China, the Russian Federation and Turkey.
But Biden’s international goals, which aim to re-establish the rules-based system under which Western geopolitical orders desire to operate, are sending shock waves throughout the world, compelling some countries to rethink their relationship with the United States.
As relations continue to fracture, China’s interest in the Middle East has increased. Beijing and Ankara have signed 10 bilateral agreements on health and nuclear energy since 2016, according to Foreign Policy.
Turkey’s economy has struggled to spur growth during the pandemic, but Beijing has primed the Turkish economy with economic stimulus, a move that will indefinitely strengthen ties between Ankara and Beijing.
The Sino-Turkish partnership also has included multiple billion-dollar investments in Turkey’s critical infrastructure, health care apparatus and armed forces.
For Erdogan, Chinese cash comes without consequence, unlike monetary donations from the International Monetary Fund, which require political reforms and, in turn, push the Turkish president closer to Beijing.
On the humanitarian front, Turkey — which once was a safe haven for Uighurs who fled persecution from Beijing’s state-sanctioned genocide against Xinjiang’s ethnic minority — now detains the community without explanation, according to NPR.
Since 2019, NPR reported, Turkish officials have created upward of 200 detention centers wherein Uighurs, who once had fled ethnic destruction in China, are jailed without reason or explanation. Some Uighurs fear they might be extradited back to China.
The shift in geopolitical position challenges the West’s desire to procure a rules-based liberal order.
Turkey and China, however, are bound together by Western condemnation. The two countries appear to share a unique vision of the world that will produce pressure on Biden’s foreign policy goals, checking his vision to create an international order based on Western institutions and norms.
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