Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. (Oliver Bunic/Bloomberg )

ISTANBUL (Tribune News Service) — Turkish President Recep Erdogan was just sworn in for a third term after 20 years in power. And apparently there’s nothing quite like an uncontested electoral victory guaranteeing another half-decade in power to rev up the backpedaling by the backstabbers.

“Congratulations to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Türkiye on his re-election. I look forward to continuing to work together as NATO allies on bilateral issues and shared global challenges,” President Joe Biden tweeted. But back in early 2020, when he was running for office against then-President Donald Trump, who once told Erdogan that he was a “big fan”, Biden sang a much different tune to the editors of The New York Times. “What I think we should be doing is taking a very different approach to him now, making it clear that we support opposition leadership,” Biden said in the interview. He added that the opposition had “to be able to take on and defeat Erdogan. Not by a coup, but by the electoral process.” Comments like this don’t help to dispel the well-anchored notion in Erdogan's mind that the U.S. would love nothing more than to eject him from power.

Unfortunately for Biden, Trump’s former acting national intelligence director, Richard Grenell, has now publicly claimed to have receipts. “Instructing Jeff Flake to meet with the opposition candidate in the middle of the election was a terrible mistake — the US must strongly advocate for its policies but must stay away from picking sides in elections,” Grenell tweeted, referring to the US Ambassador to Turkey. “Erdogan knows what you did. This will not benefit US interests.”

Grenell is right in that nothing much seems to escape the attention of the Turkish president when it comes to foreign meddling. “Biden gave the order to topple Erdogan, I know this,” Erdogan said prior to the first round of voting. “All my people know this.” Well, if Erdogan didn’t already "know what Biden did,” then the fella who used to be in charge of all the US intelligence agencies combined has effectively now confirmed it.

At this point, Biden sounds like someone who ended up back with their ex after badmouthing them all over town and who is now hoping that everyone just forgets what he said.

Biden's animosity toward Erdogan pre-vote is easily explained. Had opponent Kemal Kilicdaroglu been elected instead, a more concessionary tone would have been struck with the West, largely with an eye on integrating the European Union.

Until now, the collective West, including the EU, have strung Turkey along for decades now under the promise of eventual ascension — and it's not hard to imagine that the will to please would have gone into overdrive, unlike with Erdogan, who seems to understand that playing the field is wiser than sitting around waiting for that call.

Turkey has nonetheless helped the West immeasurably with sticky issues between East and West, including the recent Black Sea Grain deal to get Ukrainian and Russian grain out from the conflict zone to the world, even though once the food entered Europe, incompetence has resulted in much of it being dumped in EU countries to the point of the bloc having to bail out farmers in their own bordering states whose own supply prices plummeted. Turkey also held back the waves of migrants fleeing Africa and the Middle East — many under the pretext of escaping the chaos sown by Western military interventions — that threatened to flood European countries. Trump also dumped the Syrian war in Erdogan’s lap, allowing the former president to partially fulfill his campaign promise of drawing down foreign wars. A NATO member, Turkey also has the second largest army in the alliance and hosts key operational bases for the alliance. Still, comments like Biden’s suggest that the West figures it could do even better with someone more pliable in charge.

Former NATO Supreme Allied Commander James Stavridis told Bloomberg earlier this year that despite Turkey being a valuable alliance member, “some NATO members are going to begin asking, ‘If it is a choice between Sweden/Finland and Turkey, maybe we should look at our options.’ ” Turkey has stood in the way of Sweden's NATO membership bid (although not Finland), citing Turkish national security concerns. Russian President Vladimir Putin called Erdogan a “dear friend” after his re-election, which irks the West. Still, that personal friendship doesn’t seem to have tempered Erdogan’s insistence on doing what’s best for Turkish interests above all else, which often means playing both sides of the court from the middle. For instance, Erdogan refused to sanction Russia while nonetheless demanding a cease-fire from Putin. He also purchased Russian missile defense systems despite threats from the NATO military industrial racket, which no doubt feared the loss of a business opportunity more than anything else.

Not really being fully in any particular camp — or rather, being a member of all of them — has given Turkey an independence, importance and influence on the world stage that other countries can only dream about. Perhaps that’s why some, like Biden, were cheering for a soft, but ultimately failed, regime change.

Rachel Marsden is a columnist, political strategist and host of independently produced talk shows in French and English. Her website can be found at

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