POLICY PAPER: US-Turkey Relations - How to Avoid a Complete Breakdown?

We are observing the most turbulent period in Turkey-US relations, notwithstanding the congenial personal relations between Presidents Trump and Erdoğan. While it is natural to observe occasional divergence of opinion between partners, the frequency and the intensity of such disagreements has sharply increased over time, creating major trust issues between allies. Therefore, it is imperative to understand the dynamics of the relationship between the two parties.

Turkey’s relations with the West are at an all-time low. Even though Turkey has traditionally been well embedded in Western security infrastructures and was considered a fairly reliable Western ally for over half a century, scarcely a day passes without a report or headline on the front page of leading newspapers questioning Turkey’s reliability as a Western ally. Turkey-United States (US) relations are at the center of this storm. We are observing the most turbulent period in Turkey-US relations, notwithstanding the congenial personal relations between Presidents Trump and Erdoğan.


The increasing number and the growing complexity of the issues over which the two sides differ make it imperative to understand the dynamics of the relationship between the two parties. The developments in the aftermath of the failed coup attempt on July 15, 2016, such as Turkey’s rapprochement with Russia in security and defense matters, the tariff wars in summer 2018, the removal of Turkey from the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter Program in 2019, the passage of resolutions in the US Congress recognizing the events that took place in 1915 as the Armenian Genocide, and the measures related to Turkey in the recently approved US National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2020 further illustrate the timeliness and value of the current analysis. Accordingly, after providing a brief overview of the history of bilateral relations, this article addresses the main causes behind the rift between Turkey and the US and makes specific policy recommendations to prevent further deterioration in relations.


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İstanbul Politik Araştırmalar Enstitüsü

Caferağa Mah. Muvvakithane Cad. Çakıroğlu İş Merkezi No: 26/61

Kadıköy - İstanbul