December 3, 2021 | FDD Tracker: November 3, 2021-December 3, 2021

Biden Administration Foreign Policy Tracker: November

December 3, 2021 | FDD Tracker: November 3, 2021-December 3, 2021

Biden Administration Foreign Policy Tracker: November

Trend Overview

Edited by David Adesnik

Welcome back to the Biden Administration Foreign Policy Tracker. Once a month, we ask FDD’s experts and scholars to assess the administration’s foreign policy. They provide trendlines of very positive, positive, neutral, negative, or very negative for the areas they watch. November, like October, proved to be a month in which the dividends of the administration’s “relentless diplomacy” remained elusive. Persuasion moved few adversaries to temper their demands, mitigate their threats, or moderate their oppression at home. In Vienna, nuclear negotiations with Iran resumed after a five-month break, with Iran demanding immediate sanctions relief while enriching uranium at a fortified underground facility. Determined to reach a deal, the Biden administration muted its criticism despite Tehran’s persistent stonewalling of UN inspections. In Qatar, U.S. diplomats negotiated with Taliban officials, who likewise called for the lifting of sanctions. Meanwhile, the Pentagon reported that China accelerated the buildup of its nuclear arsenal, although Chinese leader Xi Jinping sought to reduce tensions in a virtual meeting with President Joe Biden. The administration remained silent when the United Nations fired a whistleblower who revealed the Human Rights Council’s practice of sharing information about dissidents with Beijing. Russia gathered military forces near Ukraine, threatening a new offensive. Syria continued its emergence from diplomatic isolation, which began after the White House quietly signaled to Arab governments they could re-engage with Damascus. The Venezuelan and Nicaraguan regimes held rigged elections with little concern for U.S. or regional backlash. As the end of its first year approaches, the administration may want to reconsider the importance of leverage as a prerequisite of effective diplomacy.

Arms Control and Nonproliferation

By Anthony Ruggiero and Andrea Stricker

Previous Trend: Negative

The Department of Defense reported to Congress that China will likely have at least 1,000 nuclear warheads by 2030, “exceeding the pace and size the [department] projected in 2020.” General Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS), called Beijing’s nuclear-capable hypersonic vehicle tests this summer “very concerning” and “very close” to a “Sputnik moment.” General John Hyten, vice chairman of the JCS, said China’s efforts “look like” an attempt to develop “a first-use weapon.” Biden administration officials told The New York Times that they want to build up to arms control talks with China years from now after starting with discussions on avoiding accidental conflict.

Iran has resumed production of advanced centrifuge parts at a site that the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is unable to monitor. This raises concerns that the regime could divert the centrifuge parts to an undeclared uranium enrichment plant. Tehran also continues to obstruct the IAEA’s probe into Tehran’s nuclear activities at undeclared sites.

At a meeting of the IAEA Board of Governors, France, Germany, and the United Kingdom (the E3) highlighted the absence of any plausible civilian justification for Iran’s most egregious nuclear advances. The E3 mainly cited activities that began during the Biden administration, including production of 60 percent enriched uranium and uranium metal. Nevertheless, the United States and E3 again allowed Tehran to escape censure at the board meeting. The United States told the board that absent Iranian cooperation with the IAEA, “the Board will have no choice but to reconvene in extraordinary session before the end of this year in order to address the crisis.”


By Craig Singleton

Previous Trend: Negative

Chinese leader Xi Jinping has all but vanished from the world stage. Having hunkered down in Beijing for more than 600 days, Xi was a no-show at the UN General Assembly, the G20 in Rome, and last month’s COP26 summit in Glasgow. Xi’s disappearing act is occurring at the same time he and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) are facing serious domestic headwinds, including a COVID-19 resurgence, rampant energy shortages, and a hard economic landing. With mounting crises at home and abroad, Xi used a virtual meeting with President Biden to lower the temperature in the bilateral relationship, hoping to avoid any near-term flare-ups that could complicate his preparations for 2022’s Party Congress. Xi also lessened tensions by de-emphasizing reunification with Taiwan in the final communique following the CCP’s sixth plenum.

After nearly a year in office, the Biden administration is still formulating its China policy. It remains to be seen, however, whether the final product will depart significantly from the prior administration’s Indo-Pacific Strategy, which emphasized alliances and sought to prevent China from establishing illiberal spheres of influence. Also unclear is whether long-stalled counter-China legislation will find its way into the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2022. The Chinese government is actively lobbying to block the legislation, threatening that its passage could result in a loss of “revenue and market share” for U.S. companies operating in China. The issue will serve as a bellwether for future bipartisan collaboration on the China issue.


By RADM (Ret.) Mark Montgomery and Annie Fixler

Previous Trend: Positive

The Biden administration scored significant wins against ransomware operatives in November and emphasized the importance of cooperation with allies. The Justice Department announced the arrest of a Ukrainian national and charges against a Russian national for cyberattacks associated with Russia-based ransomware gang REvil, as well as the seizure of $6.1 million from the Russian hacker. These successes resulted from close collaboration between the FBI, private industry, Ukrainian authorities, Europol, and other foreign law enforcement agencies. The announcement coincided with U.S. Treasury Department sanctions against virtual currency exchange platform Chatex as well as the arrest of two more REvil-linked hackers in Romania. While affecting only a fraction of the ransomware ecosystem, these efforts do indicate the administration’s commitment to “bringing the full strength of the federal government” to bear to combat malicious cyber activity, in President Biden’s words.

Meanwhile, the National Security Agency and U.S. Cyber Command hosted their UK counterparts for strategic conversations, after which the allies pledged to enhance “collective defense and deterrence.” Separately, Treasury and the Israeli Ministry of Finance and National Cyber Directorate announced a bilateral counter-ransomware partnership. During a visit to France, Vice President Kamala Harris announced that the administration will join the Paris Call for Trust and Security in Cyberspace, a voluntary 80-country initiative to preserve an open, free, and secure internet.

Finally, the president’s signature initiative in Congress, the infrastructure bill signed into law on November 15, contains cybersecurity funding that, while not sufficient to defend U.S. critical infrastructure, will enhance national cyber resilience.


By Bradley Bowman

Previous Trend: Positive

The Department of Defense published its annual report to Congress on the Chinese military, warning that Beijing has achieved significant progress toward its explicit goal of building a “world-class” military. Whereas heady pronouncements often emanate from Washington with neither consistent funding nor clear action to support them, Americans should not underestimate Beijing’s determination to achieve its goal.

The report noted that China increased its opaque annual military budget this year by at least 6.8 percent, “continuing more than 20 years of annual defense spending increases.” The People’s Liberation Army has put this money to good use, achieving notable structural reforms, fielding advanced new weapons, building readiness, and improving its ability to conduct joint operations. The Pentagon report also noted that China actively seeks to establish new military bases throughout Asia, Africa, and the Middle East.

Meanwhile, on November 4, the Biden administration announced it would sell Saudi Arabia air-to-air missiles to defend against repeated suicide drone attacks. Some left-wing legislators want to block the sale, but that would only empower Iranian-supported Houthi terrorists, incentivize Riyadh to acquire Russian and Chinese weapons, and worsen the conflict and humanitarian crisis in Yemen.

On November 29, the Pentagon announced the conclusion of its 2021 Global Posture Review, revealing few new details but confirming the administration’s prudent decisions to prioritize the Indo-Pacific, halt Trump’s proposed withdrawal from Europe, and add some capability there. Thankfully, after Biden’s catastrophe in Afghanistan, encouraged by self-delusion and “ending endless waradvocates, the administration is not drawing from the same failed playbook in Iraq and Syria — for now.


By John Hardie

Previous Trend: Positive

The administration faced several tests in Europe last month. First, Bosnia and Herzegovina is experiencing its worst political crisis since the 1992-1995 war as secessionist Bosnian Serb leader Milorad Dodik, with Russian support, threatens to upend the country’s complex constitutional system. Meanwhile, Bosniak-Croat electoral disputes have exacerbated the crisis. Visits by senior U.S. diplomats, along with National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan’s unexpected appearance at a White House meeting with High Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina Christian Schmidt, signaled much-needed high-level U.S. engagement. The administration reiterated threats to impose sanctions against persons who destabilize the country, while pushing for agreement on electoral and constitutional reforms.

Second, the Lukashenko regime ramped up efforts to smuggle migrants into the European Union in retaliation for EU sanctions. Biden expressed solidarity with the European Union during a November 10 meeting with the European Commission president, and Washington later joined G7 allies in condemning Lukashenko’s weaponization of migration. On Thursday, in coordination with transatlantic allies, Treasury issued additional sanctions, including measures targeting Belarus’ sovereign debt and vital potash industry.

Third, Russia’s ongoing military buildup near Ukraine and in Crimea has raised the specter of a renewed Russian offensive. At this week’s NATO ministerial (discussed further in the Russia section) and in other high-level engagements with Kyiv and NATO allies, the administration reaffirmed U.S. support for Ukraine and shared intelligence to convey the gravity of the threat. Notably, on November 10, Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Sullivan hosted a high-level Ukrainian delegation to relaunch the U.S.-Ukraine Strategic Partnership Commission and sign a new Charter on Strategic Partnership.



By Hussain Abdul-Hussain

Previous Trend: Very Negative

The speech that Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin delivered at the annual Manama Dialogue on November 20 resonated positively with Gulf media and negatively with Iran, an indicator that the Biden administration struck the right tone in addressing the standoff between America’s Gulf allies and Tehran.

“Iran presents us all with serious security challenges that go beyond its nuclear program,” Austin said. “Iran stokes tensions in this region and beyond, and that undermines peace and stability for us all,” he added. The Pentagon chief promised to “protect our forces from attack by Tehran or its proxies” and to “stand up for Iraq’s sovereignty and independence, against any party or proxy that tries to violate it.”

However, Austin tamped down Gulf hopes of a firmer American policy toward Iran when he reiterated Washington’s commitment to “a diplomatic outcome of the nuclear issue.” Those words signaled more of the same: Instead of inviting Iran to choose between rewards for denuclearization and punishment for intransigence, Washington is rewarding Iran just for negotiating, while promising more rewards to come. America’s military might is effectively off the table despite Iran’s aggressive moves toward a nuclear weapons capability.

While Austin’s visit to Manama and his speech did signal America’s commitment to the defense of its Gulf allies and Israel, a closer look suggests that Washington remains inhibited by a skewed understanding of how to use its ample power to make diplomacy appealing for Iran. This deficiency continues to make Washington’s allies nervous.


By Craig Singleton

Previous Trend: Neutral

The upcoming Summit for Democracy in Washington, DC, has become a source of tension as the Biden administration recalibrates America’s engagement throughout the Indo-Pacific. Of the 10 members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, only three were invited: the Philippines, Indonesia, and Malaysia. Especially curious is the absence of Singapore — a U.S. security partner that earns similar ratings from Freedom House as the three invitees. Regardless, Singapore previously made clear that it rejects the idea of forming a “coalition of democracies” to counter China, describing the notion as a “Cold War-style” relic. This sentiment, widely shared in Southeast Asia, will complicate the White House’s efforts to counter China’s belligerent behavior. Unsurprisingly, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi remarked that the summit is intended to “instigate division” and promote an “American-style transformation of other sovereign countries to serve the strategic needs of the United States itself.” Beijing is already working to strengthen relations with countries not invited to the summit, and Chinese leader Xi Jinping used a speech during the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum to denounce America’s “Cold War era” approach to Southeast Asia.

Washington’s regional realignment will be further constrained by the Pentagon’s recently released Global Posture Review, which plans only limited improvements to U.S. bases in Guam and Australia rather than a major reshuffling of forces to deter Chinese aggression in the region. Unexplained delays in finalizing the administration’s National Defense and Indo-Pacific strategies also provides China with additional time to consolidate its regional footing and undermine America’s long-term interests.

International Organizations

By Richard Goldberg

Previous Trend: Neutral

In a significant victory for Beijing, the Biden administration stayed silent following the United Nations’ termination of whistleblower Emma Reilly, who had revealed the UN Human Rights Council’s practice of providing personal information about Chinese dissidents to Beijing. America’s tacit support for the termination greatly undermines its moral standing to counter China inside the UN system. The administration suffered another setback vis-a-vis Beijing with the election of a Chinese public security official to Interpol’s Executive Committee.

Meanwhile, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield became the first Cabinet official to visit Israel since the formation of the new Israeli government. Thomas-Greenfield visited the Western Wall — the holiest site for Jews — which the United Nations Security Council declared in 2016 to be in illegally occupied territory. She reaffirmed U.S. support for Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system and downplayed the issue of whether the United States would reopen a consulate general for the Palestinians in Jerusalem. Thomas-Greenfield also said she was working with Israel’s UN ambassador to add more countries to the Abraham Accords. During meetings with the Palestinian Authority (PA), Thomas-Greenfield reportedly pressed PA President Mahmoud Abbas on PA human rights violations and its policy of providing reward payment to the families of terrorists (known as “pay-for-slay”). She also spoke to officials from the UN Relief and Works Agency — which is under scrutiny for antisemitic school curricula and terror finance concerns — “about how to make [the agency’s] work stronger, more efficient and more accountable.”


By Richard Goldberg and Behnam Ben Taleblu

Previous Trend: Very Negative

For the fourth time this year, the Biden administration opted not to pursue a resolution censuring Iran at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Board of Governors meeting in Vienna. Throughout 2021, the administration has failed to hold Tehran accountable for irreversible advances in its nuclear program; non-cooperation with IAEA investigations into undeclared nuclear material, sites, and activities; refusal to allow IAEA inspectors access to surveillance equipment and an advanced centrifuge manufacturing facility; production of uranium metal, which can be used in the development of nuclear weapons; and production of low- and high-enriched uranium, including enrichment to 20 and 60 percent purity.

U.S. Special Envoy Rob Malley declared in November that “most of the region’s dysfunction has roots in Iran’s exclusion” rather than in Tehran’s aggression, while National Security Council official Brett McGurk argued that military strikes could set back Iran’s nuclear program but not change its strategic priorities. Meanwhile, the Biden administration did not condemn the regime’s repression of demonstrators in Isfahan province protesting water shortages, a crackdown that also led to a shutdown of internet service in Ahvaz (which previously saw widespread water-related protests).

Instead, Malley arrived in Vienna for negotiations last week offering to lift U.S. sanctions — potentially even terrorism and missile sanctions — in exchange for either a return to the 2015 nuclear deal or a so-called “less for more” arrangement whereby Iran might keep most of its recent nuclear advances intact but still get sanctions relief. Iran continued to escalate its nuclear program amid talks.


By David May

Previous Trend: Very Negative

The Biden administration helped cement Israel’s regional integration and U.S.-Israel interconnectedness. The U.S. military conducted a joint amphibious assault drill in Israel and a combined naval exercise in the Red Sea with the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and Israel. On November 14, the Treasury Department announced a U.S.-Israel cybersecurity joint task force and plans to combat ransomware. And on November 22, Israel and Jordan signed a U.S.-brokered water and energy agreement.

Senior officials’ visits to Israel underscored the close U.S.-Israel relationship. The State Department’s senior adviser for energy security, Amos Hochstein, visited on November 7–8 to advance Israel-Lebanon maritime border talks. U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield toured the Holy Land in mid-November. And U.S. Ambassador to Israel Tom Nides landed in Israel on November 29 after his Senate confirmation at the start of the month. In addition, National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan met with Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett on the sidelines of the climate change summit in Glasgow.

However, U.S.-Israel relations hit some sour notes. On November 2, the Biden administration blacklisted Israeli spyware firm NSO Group over the abuse of its surveillance technology. On November 13, the United States and Qatar, a major patron of Hamas, issued a joint statement expressing their deep concern for the West Bank and Gaza. And in late November, U.S. pressure convinced Israel not to advance plans to construct 9,000 houses in Eastern Jerusalem.

Looking ahead, nuclear negotiations with Iran and a proposed consulate for Palestinians in East Jerusalem loom large over the U.S.-Israel relationship.


By David Maxwell

Previous Trend: Neutral

South Korean and U.S. diplomats have continued discussing a formal declaration to end the Korean War, which President Moon Jae-in has consistently advocated; however, there has been no public announcement of a coordinated alliance approach. Leading experts have argued that simply declaring peace will not ensure the security of South Korea and will be exploited by North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un to support political warfare initiatives. However, Moon is expected to continue pressing for a declaration to cement his legacy as the “peace president.”

The United States continued high-level diplomatic engagement in the region, holding bilateral meetings at the deputy minister level with both South Korea and Japan. However, a trilateral meeting ended without a public press statement, due to the long-running dispute between Seoul and Tokyo over the islands of Dokdo (a.k.a. Takeshima). Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman held a solo press availability, as her South Korean and Japanese counterparts declined to participate.

North Korea remains isolated due to COVID-19 and is bracing for the Omicron variant. Rather than prioritizing practical economic development, the regime remains focused on ideology, a trend visible at the recent 5th Conference of the Frontrunners in the Three Revolutions, which called for glorifying the Kim era.

On November 17, the 3rd Committee of the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution on the dire human rights conditions in North Korea. Although the European Union facilitated the resolution, Pyongyang responded with typical hostile rhetoric toward the United States.

There are now less than 100 days until the South Korean presidential election in March.

Latin America

By Carrie Filipetti and Emanuele Ottolenghi

Previous Trend: Negative

Despite the intensification of democratic backsliding across the region, the Biden administration continues to prioritize dialogue with adversaries over support for allies — and that support consists mostly of statements rather than action.

The State Department criticized Venezuela’s shambolic elections, whose manipulation by the regime ensured the desired outcome. Yet the Biden administration took no concrete measures to escalate pressure on the regime of Venezuelan strongman Nicolás Maduro.

Nor has there been new U.S. action in response to Nicaraguan dictator Daniel Ortega’s refusal to release 21 political prisoners following a judgement by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights. After a rigged election in mid-November gave Ortega a fourth term as president, the United States, United Kingdom, and Canada imposed sanctions on several senior officials, yet these and previous sanctions have had no impact on Ortega’s behavior.

Regional leaders appear to presume the United States will not actively defend its interests, a shift seen most obviously in Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s comments threatening sitting U.S. senators and House representatives with unspecified political retaliation.

While the Biden administration did nothing to hold the Maduro or Ortega regimes accountable for their crimes, the administration revoked the terrorist designation of the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC) despite the continued threats the group poses to Colombia, a U.S. ally. Furthermore, FARC’s actions both support and benefit from the Maduro regime. Colombian government officials, speaking on background to the authors, lamented that Washington did not notify Bogota in advance of this decision.


By Tony Badran

Previous Trend: Very Negative

In November, the Biden administration hosted the commander of the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF), General Joseph Aoun, chaperoned by the U.S. ambassador to Lebanon, for a series of meetings with U.S. officials in Washington.

The administration followed up by delivering to the LAF six light attack helicopters worth a total of $40 million. The U.S. ambassador underscored that the Biden administration is “working aggressively” to underwrite not only the LAF but also Lebanon’s Internal Security Forces.

Toward that end, the administration is working to establish a UN-managed fund, reportedly at a cost of some $86 million a year, to directly supplement LAF salaries with a monthly stipend. The LAF command confirmed the United States was behind this idea. U.S. law precludes directly supplementing the salaries of foreign troops, which is why the administration has been resorting to what it calls “creative ways” to assist the LAF.

The administration apparently still wants Gulf Arab states to help foot the bill. In a joint press conference with his Qatari counterpart, Secretary of State Antony Blinken remarked that it is “very important … to demonstrate that support” for Lebanon.

Beyond the LAF, the Biden administration is eager to make additional investments in Lebanon’s offshore energy prospects. In the course of marketing the administration’s vision for an agreement on maritime borders with Israel, senior advisor for global energy security Amos Hochstein spoke of “American companies” potentially investing in “south Lebanon,” a region dominated by Hezbollah.


By John Hardie

Previous Trend: Neutral

President Biden’s goal of more “stable and predictable” relations with Moscow is colliding with longstanding disagreements over Ukraine. An ongoing Russian military buildup has the intelligence community worried — more so than during a similar buildup last spring — that Moscow may be preparing to attack Ukraine.

In early November, CIA Director William Burns made a rare visit to Moscow to warn against such an attack. The administration is considering providing Ukraine with additional weapons, as requested by Kyiv’s defense minister during a mid-November visit to Washington. The White House, however, reportedly remains preoccupied with the stability of U.S.-Russia relations and is reviewing U.S. military exercises in Europe, though an administration official insisted the White House has not decided to curtail them.

At this week’s NATO ministerial, Secretary of State Antony Blinken warned that a Russian attack would trigger “high-impact economic measures that we’ve refrained from using in the past,” adding that “NATO is prepared to reinforce its defenses on the eastern flank.” Blinken later met separately with his Ukrainian and Russian counterparts, reiterating his sanctions threat. At the same time, Blinken reaffirmed U.S. readiness to support “full implementation of the Minsk agreements” — while pushing back against Moscow’s portrayal of Kyiv as the intransigent party — and to cooperate with Russia on other “shared interests.”

Moscow, however, wants guarantees against Ukrainian NATO membership and NATO weapons deployments in Ukraine. The Kremlin is seeking further presidential-level contacts, which Blinken hinted could happen soon. With Biden eager to preserve calm to focus on other priorities, Russian President Vladimir Putin may calculate that his American counterpart will be quicker to concede. Biden should prove otherwise.

Sunni Jihadism

By Bill Roggio

Previous Trend: Very Negative

The Pakistani government and the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan agreed to a one-month ceasefire and are conducting negotiations. Meanwhile, the Afghan Taliban deployed hundreds of fighters to battle the Islamic State in Nangarhar province. The Taliban have the advantage over the Islamic State in terms of terrorist allies, state sponsors, numbers, weapons, and terrain. Since the Taliban took control of the country and declared it the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, more than 100 members of the security forces of the former government have been killed or gone missing. The UN Security Council has denied the Taliban’s Emirate a seat at the United Nations. Iranian border guards clashed with the Taliban in Nimroz province. The United States and the Taliban are conducting talks on a wide range of issues.

Al-Qaeda emir Ayman al-Zawahiri denounced the United Nations for being hostile to Islam in a video that dispelled rumors of his death. Al-Shabaab, al-Qaeda’s branch in Somalia and East Africa, continues to attack Somali and African Union forces in Mogadishu, including through a suicide bombing that killed 8 people and an assault on a base in Beledweyne. Indonesia arrested a member of the Indonesian Ulema Council and two associates for their ties to Jemaah Islamiyah, an al-Qaeda-allied terror group. The Islamic State’s Central Africa Province launched a series of suicide attacks and bombings in Kampala, the capital of Uganda.


By David Adesnik

Previous Trend: Very Negative

Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin ordered the re-investigation of a March 2019 airstrike in Syria to determine how many civilians were killed and whether American forces violated the laws of war. A New York Times investigation found in mid-November that mid-ranking officers quickly flagged the strike as potentially unlawful but senior leaders prevented a thorough inquiry despite an estimated 60 to 80 fatalities. While the Pentagon regularly reports on civilian casualties, it only disclosed the March 2019 incident in response to The Times’ coverage. In a detailed statement to the press, a military spokesman offered an account of the incident sharply at odds with The Times’ reporting, adding that an internal probe found the airstrike in question to be a proportional and legitimate form of self-defense. Austin will receive the results of the new investigation in 90 days.

On November 9, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad received UAE Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed, the most senior Emirati official to visit Syria since the country’s civil war began in 2011. In August, the Biden administration gave a quiet green light to Arab governments to pursue the diplomatic rehabilitation of the Assad regime, while rejecting the contention that U.S. policy toward Syria has changed. Meanwhile, the Treasury Department relaxed restrictions that limit non-governmental organizations’ ability to transact with the Assad regime for approved purposes such as humanitarian assistance. Treasury’s statement did not acknowledge Assad’s systematic theft of aid and manipulation of humanitarian organizations.


By Aykan Erdemir

Previous Trend: Neutral

The Biden administration continued to send mixed signals about Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s transgressions. Following an October 31 meeting with Erdogan on the sidelines of the G20 summit, Biden noted “U.S. concerns over Turkey’s possession of the Russian S-400 missile system.” Despite earlier threats from Ankara to procure Russian warplanes and a second batch of S-400s, the readout of the U.S.-Turkey High Level Defense Group meeting on November 16 made no mention of these issues. Similarly, the White House statement on National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan’s November 19 phone call with Erdogan’s spokesperson made no mention of any of the problems in U.S.-Turkish relations. The comments that Karen Donfried, the assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs, provided to Turkey’s semi-official news agency the same day were also conciliatory in tone, but at least included a warning that Turkey as a NATO ally should not expect lenient treatment for the S-400s.

The Biden administration did the right thing by not inviting Erdogan to its “Summit for Democracy” this month, but the State Department ignored the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom’s recommendation to place Turkey on its Special Watch List for having engaged in or tolerated systematic, ongoing, and egregious violations of religious freedom.

The Biden administration was also silent following an Istanbul court’s extension of the imprisonment of Osman Kavala — Turkey’s leading minority-rights advocate, incarcerated on fabricated charges — save for an anodyne comment a State Department spokesperson provided in response to a media inquiry.


The analyses above do not necessarily represent the institutional views of FDD.


Afghanistan Arab Politics China Cyber Gulf States Indo-Pacific International Organizations Iran Israel Jihadism Lebanon Military and Political Power North Korea Russia Syria The Long War Turkey U.S. Defense Policy and Strategy