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Biden and Erdogan in 2016. Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

Ankara — President Biden's willingness to risk tensions with Turkey by recognizing the Armenian Genocide is a sign of Turkey's dwindling support in the White House, Congress, and the U.S security establishment.

Why it matters: The declaration seems to indicate that the new U.S. administration has downgraded its strategic relationship with Turkey, and comes at a time when relations were already in a downward trend.

  • The U.S. sanctioned Turkey last year for purchasing the S-400 Russian air defense system, and last week formally notified Ankara that it was excluded from the new F-35 stealth fighter program over the S-400 deal.
  • It took Biden more than three months to call Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, and that call only came as Biden was preparing to officially recognized the genocide.
  • The declaration came at a time when Turkey, both diplomatically and economically, can't afford the luxury of engaging in new fights.

What they're saying: Turkey categorically denied the designation of genocide and claimed that radical Armenian circles and anti-Turkey groups were behind it.

  • "We reject and denounce in the strongest terms the statement of the President of the U.S. regarding the events of 1915 made under the pressure of radical Armenian circles and anti-Turkey groups on April 24," Turkey's foreign ministry said in a statement Saturday, calling on Biden to "correct this grave mistake."
  • The response was actually relatively mild compared to past cases, and Turkey didn't recall its diplomats from Washington.
  • Worth noting: Referring to a "genocide" against Armenians — carried out under the Ottoman Empire in 1915 — is considered an "insult to the Turkish nation" and can trigger criminal charges in Turkey.

Between the lines: Biden likely wanted to signal to Erdoğan that there will be costs to Turkey's deteriorating human rights record and his insistence on keeping the S-400 system.

  • Soner Cagaptay a senior fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, wrote that Biden is aware that "for the first time in many years, Erdoğan needs the U.S. more than Washington needs him."

What to watch: Considering Turkey's economic troubles, Erdoğan is not expected to meaningfully retaliate against the U.S. at the current time. 

  • His top priority right now is to consolidate his base of support and not let the Turkish lira free-fall against the dollar due to sudden crises.

What's next: Biden and Erdoğan will hold their first bilateral meeting in June.

Go deeper

"Atmospheric river" to whiplash Northern California from drought to flood

A map depicting 24-hour preciptation forecast (inches) ending Monday at 5a.m. local time. Photo: NOAA

A series of powerful "atmospheric river" storms are set dump historic amounts of rainfall across parts of drought-stricken California and the Pacific Northwest from this weekend, forecasters warn.

Why it matters: A strong atmospheric river, packing large amounts of moisture, is predicted to whiplash Northern California from drought to flood.

10,000 trees near giant sequoia groves to be removed after fires

A firefighter looks up at a giant sequoia tree after fire burned through the Sequoia National Forest near California Hot Springs, California, on Sept. 23. Photo: Patrick T. Fallon/AFP via Getty Images

"Upwards of" 10,000 trees near giant sequoia groves have been "weakened by drought, disease, age, and/or fire" and must be removed in the wake of California's wildfires, the Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks announced.

Why it matters: The damage to these trees, considered "national treasures," and work to remove them means a nearby key highway must remain closed to visitors as they have "the potential to strike people, cars, other structures, or create barriers to emergency response services," per a statement from the national parks.

Obama stumps for McAuliffe, urges Virginians not "to go back to the chaos"

Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

Former President Barack Obama framed a Nov. 2 gubernatorial race as a bellwether for the Democratic Party and the country, telling a crowd at a campaign event for Terry McAuliffe on Saturday that "I believe you, right here in Virginia, are going to show the rest of the country and the world that we're not going to indulge in our worst instincts."

Why it matters: With just over a week to go before Election Day in the Commonwealth, McAuliffe is bringing out the big guns. The 44th president appeared on the campus of Virginia Commonwealth University to urge supporters to get to the polls.