Author`s name Lyuba Lulko

Turkey, USA and the Armenian genocide

If the United States recognises the Armenian genocide, Turkey will explode. Washington risks complicating relations with its NATO partner, while Ankara may face a strong economic decline.

USA always avoided ruining relations with Turkey

On Saturday, April 24, US President Joe Biden is set to officially recognize the 1915 Armenian Genocide in the Ottoman Empire, The Wall Street Journal reported. April 24 is Memorial Day that pays tribute to million of Armenians who were killed in the massacre and during deportation.

Until recently, all US presidents have tried to avoid using the word 'genocide' to describe the killings of Christians by Muslims. Barack Obama once promised to recognize the Armenian genocide, but he never did it.

"Every year there was a reason not to. Turkey was vital to some issue that we were dealing with, or there was some dialogue between Turkey and the Armenian government about the past," Ben Rhodes, a deputy national security adviser in the Obama administration, said in an interview back in 2018.

Former US President Donald Trump called the events of 1915 "one of the worst mass atrocities of the 20th century."

In 2019, the US Senate passed a resolution recognizing the massacres of Armenians from 1915 to 1923 as genocide. The Trump administration had asked Republican senators to block the ruling as it could impede negotiations with Turkey on "sensitive issues."

Joe Biden, as a presidential candidate, pledged that if elected, he would support the resolution to recognize the Armenian Genocide and make universal human rights a top priority for his administration.

What will happen if the United States recognizes the Armenian genocide?

The relations between the United States and Turkey have deteriorated since 2016 after the attempted military coup in Turkey. Ankara accused Washington of supporting it. Then there was a conflict over the arrest of a US clergyman in Turkey, Turkey's demonstrative purchase of S-400 missile systems from Russia, and Ankara's military operation in Syria against the pro-American Kurds.

Two days ago, Washington officially notified Ankara of Turkey's exclusion from the F-35 stealth fighter program. The US federal government is conducting an investigation against the Turkish state-owned bank Halkbank into the transfer of $20 billion to Iran. Turkey's support for Iran is a red rag for Washington.

Vladimir Avatkov, senior researcher at IMEMO RAS, Associate Professor at the Diplomatic Academy, believes that the US move towards recognizing the Armenian Genocide is connected with two things:

  • an attempt to win over Armenia that feels abandoned by the West;
  • an attempt to force Turkey to act within its own logic.

"To achieve this, the United States will stop at nothing. The Americans will resort to political, economic, military measures, and this will not lead to a warming of relations between Turkey and the United States, of course. This will cause even greater discontent in the Turkish society with the USA," Vladimir Avatkov told Pravda. Ru.

Ankara has repeatedly warned Washington that a change in its position regarding the events of 1915 would jeopardize common interests, such as the agreement for the use of the Incirlik army base in the south of Turkey. Ankara may wish to purchase another battery of Russian S-400 systems and will continue cooperating with Iran. It is not ruled out that Ankara will return to the "research" in the Eastern Mediterranean — the territory that is considered to be Greek.

What consequences Turkey may face

Turkey strongly rejects accusations of Armenian genocide and always shows an extremely painful reaction to criticism on this issue. Ankara insists that the term 'genocide' should not be used in relation to the events of 1915. According to Turkey, it was not only Armenians, but also Turks who became victims of the massacre.

President Recep Erdogan said Thursday that Turkey would defend the truth in the face of false and politically motivated accusations on the part of the United States.

As a result, the Turkish lira fell by 2.2 percent against the US dollar the same day. The cheap lira makes imported goods more expensive and accelerates inflation, which already exceeds 16 percent. The weaker the Turkish lira, the more Turkey's foreign currency-denominated debt grows. It goes about $450 billion as of late 2020, according to the Ministry of Finance and Treasury.

The Turkish currency has already declined by 28 percent since the beginning of last year as investors are worried about Erdogan's interference with the actions of the Central Bank.

Erdogan said Wednesday that the Central Bank may sell foreign exchange reserves to support the lira. This may repeat last year's experience that exhausted the reserves. All this may trigger a wave of defaults for the Turkish economy.

Vladimir Avatkov believes that the National Action Party, the party of nationalists, which is in the ruling coalition with the Justice and Development Party (the party of Erdogan — ed.), will unequivocally perceive American actions as hostile and will demand retaliatory measures from the Turkish government.

According to him, the Americans want more subordination from Turkey, similarly to how it was during the Cold War era and during the 1990s, but "Turkey is not ready for this."

Will Biden's decision be a red line for Erdogan?

There is no unanimous opinion in the world on the issue of the Armenian Genocide. About 20 countries, including Russia, France and Canada, recognize it, whereas others, such as Israel and the UK, do not. At the same time, Turkey's relations with Russia remain quite acceptable against this background.

Washington is solving a dilemma: the next step to recognize the Armenian genocide will push President Erdogan to dialogue either with the West or with the East. Biden may change his mind, Vladimir Avatkov believes.

Yevgeny Satanovsky, President of the Middle East Institute, believes that Biden's recognition of the Armenian genocide will not be a "red line" for Erdogan.

"This will not affect Turkey's relations with the United States, they are already bad, but Turkey's reaction will be tough. For Ankara, such things are very painful," the expert told Pravda. Ru.