- Biden and Erdogan met on Monday with US-Turkey relations at a historic low.
- It’s unclear what they discussed specifically but Biden said the meeting was “good.”
- Erdogan’s autocratic leadership style and purchase of a Russian missile defense system has strained ties.
- See more stories on Insider’s business page.
President Joe Biden met with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan for the first time as commander-in-chief on Monday on the sidelines of the NATO summit in Brussels, Belgium, and the leaders were all smiles despite recent tensions.
That both leaders were on their best behavior and presented a united front was indicative of fact the US and Turkey still need one another despite recent disagreements.
Images of Biden and Erdogan showed them fist-bumping as they met at the NATO summit, and the Turkish president’s official Twitter account shared images of them talking, smiling, and bumping elbows.
As of Monday afternoon, it remained unclear what specific issues Biden and Erdogan discussed.
Without offering specifics or elaborating further, Biden told reporters at the end, “We had a very good meeting.”
-Josh Wingrove (@josh_wingrove) June 14, 2021
-Turkish Presidency (@trpresidency) June 14, 2021
Relations between the US and Turkey are at a historic low, with Erdogan’s increasingly anti-democratic behavior and moves like the purchase of the Russian S-400 missile defense system driving a wedge between Washington and Ankara.
Erdogan had an amicable relationship with former President Donald Trump, but his approach to foreign policy put Turkey and the US at odds so often that even the Trump administration took moves to punish the Turkish government.
Biden and Erdogan have a particularly contentious dynamic. They had only spoken once prior to their meeting on Monday. On the 2020 campaign trail Biden referred to Erdogan as an autocrat, which prompted outrage from the Turkish government. In March, Erdogan slammed Biden for referring to Russian President Vladimir Putin as a “killer,” stating it was “truly unacceptable, not something that can be stomached.”
More recently, Biden’s formal recognition of the Armenian genocide infuriated Erdogan, with Turkey warning that the move created a “deep wound” in relations between the two countries.
Despite the evident animosity and strains on relations, the US continues to view Turkey as an important NATO ally. By virtue of the fact it’s located at the crossroads of Europe and Asia, Turkey has also long been viewed as an important partner from a geo-strategic standpoint. The US also stores nuclear weapons in Turkey, which is another reason Washington wants to stay on its good side.
Meanwhile, Erdogan, who is facing low approval ratings and a struggling economy, can’t afford to further alienate the US.
Accordingly, the Turkish leader softened his tone ahead of his Monday meeting with Biden, and said both countries need to put their troubles behind them.