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Biden and Erdoğan in 2016. Photo: Kayhan Ozer/Anadolu Agency/Getty

Ankara — The incoming Biden administration's foreign policy priorities and worldview will collide with those of the Turkish government on several issues.

Why it matters: The U.S. needs its NATO ally Turkey for its efforts to contain Russia, counter Iran and deal with other crises in the Middle East. But relations between Biden and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan are expected to be strained.

Erdoğan forged close personal ties with Trump, who prevented the implementation of sanctions against Turkey over business dealings with Iran and its purchase of a Russian S-400 missile defense system. (The S-400 purchase did lead the U.S. to expel Turkey from the F-35 program.)

  • Trump also gave Erdoğan an almost free hand in his military operations in Syria.
  • What to watch: After Trump leaves office, Ankara will no longer benefit from this shield. Potential sanctions under a less friendly White House would not only damage the economy, but also undermine the international prestige of a NATO ally.

Driving the news: Erdoğan was the last leader of a NATO ally to acknowledge Biden’s victory. Meanwhile, Turkey’s main secular opposition, the Republican People’s Party (CHP), and the pro-Kurdish People's Democratic Party (HDP) immediately congratulated him.

Flashback: Biden and Erdoğan have history. Back in 2014, a diplomatic crisis emerged between the two countries after Biden dropped a bombshell during an interview with the New York Times.

  • Biden called Erdoğan an "autocrat" and said he would support the opposition's efforts to defeat him.
  • Biden also implied that Turkey had helped the rise of ISIS by letting foreign fighters cross the border into Syria. He ultimately had to offer Erdoğan an official apology.

What they're saying: Biden’s 2014 remarks recently went viral in Turkey, leading Erdoğan to criticize him again.

  • “Politicians in the U.S. don't even feel the need to hide their fascist plans about Turkey. They also don't hesitate to say in front of cameras that they want to achieve what they couldn't do with a coup by supporting the opposition," Erdoğan said after a Cabinet meeting. 

State of play: Erdoğan took several major domestic political steps in recent days, including replacing the central bank governor, which led to the resignation of the finance minister (who also happens to be his son-in-law).

  • Later, Erdoğan announced an upcoming wave of democratic reforms, without revealing any details.
  • He sent warm messages to both the EU and the U.S., saying that Turkey’s place is nowhere other than in Europe and that he wants to cooperate more closely with the U.S. 

What’s next: If Erdoğan wants to avoid a crisis with the Biden administration, he could freeze the S-400 deal with Russia, make symbolic democratic reforms or accommodate the Kurdish PYD forces in Syria.

  • Such policies would require U-turns on a number of issues, but Erdoğan has proven to be pragmatic enough in the past.

Go deeper

Jan 20, 2021 - World

Iran lays out "road map" for nuclear talks with Biden

Khamenei earlier this month. Photo: Handout/Anadolu Agency via Getty

Iran has been accumulating bargaining chips and laying out its strategy for engagement with Joe Biden, who arrives in office promising to return the U.S. to the 2015 nuclear deal if Iran returns to compliance.

Why it matters: Recent statements from Iran's leaders indicate that they're willing to strike such a deal. But the sides differ over who will have to make the first move, and when.

4 mins ago - World

U.S. announces diplomatic boycott of Beijing Winter Olympics

An Olympic-themed sculpture in Beijing on Dec. 1. Photo: Hou Yu/China News Service via Getty Images

The United States announced Monday that it will not send officials to the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics in protest of human rights abuses committed by the Chinese Communist Party.

Why it matters: The diplomatic boycott — which won't prevent American athletes from competing — marks a major escalation between the U.S. and China amid already heightened tensions over the CCP's treatment of Muslim minorities, military threats to Taiwan and economic tariffs.

Stuck jet stream brings blowtorch December in Lower 48, frigid Alaska

Short-term climate outlook for Dec. 13-19, 2021, from the Climate Prediction Center at NOAA. (NOAA/CPC)

The Lower 48 states have seen record-shattering warmth so far this December, with temperatures running as high as 35°F above average for this time of year. The warmth has been so pronounced that during the weekend, brush fires broke out in a snowless, unusually mild Denver metro area.

The big picture: The jet stream, which is a river of air that rides at about 30,000 feet along the temperature contrast between air masses, steering storms as it goes, has been stuck in a position well north of the continental U.S., keeping storms and cold weather at bay.