The United States has long viewed its relationship with Saudi Arabia as its most influential partnership in the Middle East. But Turkey is rapidly becoming a regional hegemon, while maintaining close ties to Europe and the U.S. through its NATO membership. With Turkey’s recent shift towards the West, as well as efforts to rebuild relationships with Middle East partners, its strategic importance is growing. If America wants to maintain its political and military power in the region, it needs to take advantage of this rise and forge closer relations with Turkey.
Now it is America’s turn to bolster a stronger relationship with Turkey.
From the U.S. perspective, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has been a divisive leader, making formal relations challenging to maintain. His authoritarian and often ruthless leadership runs afoul of Western democratic principles. His unpredictable nature makes policies difficult to anticipate, as he has strained and regained ties with several nations. He maintains a close friendship with Vladimir Putin, yet opposes the war in Ukraine and the Russian-backed Assad regime in Syria. Turkish forces contributed to the war against the Islamic State in Syria, but some of its military incursions there have been a front to fight against the U.S.-backed Kurds, whom Erdoğan considers a threat to his country’s security.
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