February 1, 2022 | FDD Tracker: January 12, 2022-February 1, 2022

Biden Administration Foreign Policy Tracker: February

February 1, 2022 | FDD Tracker: January 12, 2022-February 1, 2022

Biden Administration Foreign Policy Tracker: February

Trend Overview

Edited by David Adesnik and John Hardie

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.

In January, the administration scrambled to deter Russia from launching a major military offensive against Ukraine. Under pressure, NATO’s internal fault lines lay exposed. A year ago, President Joe Biden set a “goal of building a stable and predictable relationship with Russia.” That policy is now in tatters.

In other cases, Biden overestimated American adversaries’ readiness to grasp an outstretched hand. Iran remains intransigent at nuclear negotiations in Vienna, while three U.S. diplomats quit Washington’s negotiating team, reportedly objecting to the unwarranted concessions the administration is offering Tehran. In Yemen, the Iranian-backed Houthis, whom Biden removed from the U.S. list of terrorist organizations in a failed bid to promote peace, conducted drone and missile strikes against the United Arab Emirates, attacking both civilians and a base housing U.S. forces.

In Syria and Iraq, the Islamic State rebounded with coordinated attacks that American troops had to help suppress. Kim Jong Un ordered seven missile launches in January, the most rapid pace since 2017. Despite the Chinese Communist Party’s human rights abuses, only five countries have chosen to participate in Biden’s so-called “diplomatic boycott” of the Winter Games in Beijing.

“America is back,” Biden said last February, shortly after taking office. But America’s comeback is not going according to plan.

Arms Control and Nonproliferation

By Anthony Ruggiero and Andrea Stricker

Previous Trend: Negative

This month marks three years since the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) first detected uranium particles at a site Iran failed to declare as part of its nuclear program. Tehran continues to stonewall the IAEA about these apparent violations of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Regardless, the Biden administration continues indirect negotiations with Iran aimed at restoring the 2015 nuclear deal, whose restrictions on the Islamic Republic have begun to expire. Russia reportedly proposed an interim deal whereby Iran would cease enrichment of uranium to 60 percent purity in exchange for access to billions of dollars in oil revenues frozen in other countries. Tehran reportedly rejected the proposal.

North Korea conducted seven missile launches in January, returning to a frenzied pace not seen since 2017. In response, the Biden administration issued its first sanctions targeting Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons and missile programs. These sanctions are a good start, but U.S. sanctions enforcement against North Korea has continued to atrophy on President Biden’s watch. Biden has not implemented congressionally mandated sanctions that passed by overwhelming majorities in 2016, 2017, and 2019.

The Biden administration is willing to discuss arms control on missiles covered by the now-defunct Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty. This potential U.S. reversal comes after the Trump administration withdrew from the treaty due to Moscow’s flagrant and long-running violations. Secretary of State Antony Blinken recognized as much, observing that Moscow complains about NATO encirclement of Russia even though Moscow violated the INF Treaty by developing “ground-launched, intermediate-range missiles that can reach Germany and nearly all NATO European territory.”


By Craig Singleton

Previous Trend: Neutral

With mere days to go before the start of the 2022 Olympic Games in Beijing, the Biden administration’s calls for a diplomatic boycott have largely fallen flat. The only other countries that have joined the boycott are the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, Lithuania, the Czech Republic, and Kosovo. Others demurred despite indisputable evidence that China has violated nearly every provision of the UN Genocide Convention, with abuses ranging from reported collection of biometric data and mass surveillance to forced sterilization, rape, and torture. The administration’s inability to rally other nations to join the boycott is cause for concern, as it leaves the United States and a handful of its allies isolated on the world stage. The boycott’s meager participation also signals that many countries remain fearful of antagonizing Beijing on human rights even as international support for Taiwan continues to grow.

Nevertheless, while Beijing is focused on hosting a successful event, there are indications the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is gearing up for a turbulent few weeks. The party evidently fears that Olympic athletes could voice concerns about the Uighurs’ plight. Already, Chinese officials have warned that athletes and other Olympic attendees who speak out on so-called “sensitive issues” may be punished in accordance with Chinese law. What is more, the CCP has proactively arrested a number of Chinese human rights activists. While these are hardly the actions of a strong, confident power, the Chinese government appears unwilling to take any chances. What remains unclear is whether everything will go according to Beijing’s grand plans.


By RADM (Ret.) Mark Montgomery and Annie Fixler

Previous Trend: Positive

Even as the administration received positive marks for its collaboration with industry to mitigate the Log4j software vulnerability, all eyes are on Ukraine. With a Russian invasion increasingly likely, hackers deleted data and temporarily disabled websites of Ukrainian government agencies in mid-January. Microsoft also identified destructive malware in Ukrainian government and corporate systems. The malware resembles that used in Russia’s 2017 NotPetya attack, which cost companies around the world $10 billion. Following the most recent cyberattacks, Washington and NATO provided information to help Kyiv counter malicious cyber operations, building on December’s reported deployment of U.S. and UK cyber experts to Ukraine.

Meanwhile, Washington and its allies are warning critical infrastructure operators that Russia may launch disruptive attacks against the West. The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency issued tailored guidance on best practices to mitigate threats to critical systems and a technical advisory on common Russian tactics.

On January 20, the Treasury Department sanctioned four Ukrainians “engaged in Russian government-directed influence activities,” including gathering information about Ukrainian critical infrastructure. Treasury also said Washington and its allies are ready to impose a “broad range of high impact measures” if Russia “further invade[s] Ukraine.” Those measures include restrictions on exports of advanced technology to Russia.

While collaboration with partners, increasing defensive preparations, and posturing to impose costs are all appropriate, it is too early to judge if this will be enough to deter Russian cyber or ground incursions.


By Bradley Bowman

Previous Trend: Positive

Moscow continued to increase Russian combat power near Ukraine throughout the month of January, potentially preparing for an invasion that the Biden administration has warned could come in February. By the end of January, roughly 130,000 Russian military forces were assembled near the Russia-Ukraine border as well as in Belarus, Russian-occupied Crimea, and the Black Sea. The Biden administration also warned that another Russian invasion of Ukraine would trigger harsh Western sanctions, a strengthened force posture on NATO’s eastern flank, and a dramatic increase in U.S. defense assistance to Ukraine.

That is a prudent message, but such warnings regarding post-invasion consequences may not be enough to deter Russian President Vladimir Putin. “The most important thing that the West can do now is to enhance the deterrent strength of Ukraine’s armed forces by providing military assistance and equipment on an expedited basis,” a bipartisan group of 25 national security experts urged on December 30. After significant congressional pressure, the administration started delivering in late January what Secretary of Lloyd Austin described on Friday as “additional Javelins and other anti-armor weapons, grenade launchers, large quantities of artillery and small arms ammunition and other equipment.” The administration also authorized Baltic allies to rush U.S.-made weapons such as Javelins and Stinger man-portable air defense systems to Ukraine.

Those steps are laudable but belated and insufficient. Providing Ukraine with additional weapons to defend itself could increase Putin’s estimate of the costs of an invasion. That investment in deterrence up front would be much less costly than dealing with the consequences of a major new war in Europe.


By John Hardie

Previous Trend: Neutral

Amid the growing threat of further Russian aggression against Ukraine, the administration last week sought to reassure eastern flank allies by placing 8,500 troops on heightened alert, most of whom would deploy as part of the NATO Response Force if activated. Eastern flank countries, however, want immediate U.S. deployments, which Washington and select NATO allies are discussing. On Friday, President Biden said he would order a small deployment “in the near term.”

The administration also reached out to major gas producers and relevant governments for help in surging capacity if Russia curtails supplies to Europe. A senior administration official said Washington could likely “ensure alternative supplies covering a significant majority of the potential shortfall.”

The administration has also vowed that “Nord Stream 2 will not move forward” if Russia invades. Berlin has reportedly made that commitment privately, but not publicly. After the CIA director visited Berlin to press the issue, Germany’s chancellor and foreign minister said scrapping the pipeline could be an option. In addition, the United Kingdom and European Union reportedly have agreed on severe sanctions, developed with U.S. support, on new Russian gas projects if Putin invades Ukraine.

But Biden undermined U.S. messaging when he said Washington and its allies would have to “fight about what to do and not do” if Russia launched “a minor incursion” into Ukraine. His comment sparked outrage in Kyiv, prompting emphatic walk-backs. Moreover, while the administration has generally prioritized multilateral coordination throughout the crisis, it reportedly caused consternation by floating several ideas during talks with Moscow before airing them with allies.


By Hussain Abdul-Hussain

Previous Trend: Negative

Yemen’s Ansar Allah, commonly known as the Houthis, struck Abu Dhabi by air on January 17, January 24, and January 31, using drones and ballistic missiles. U.S. and Emirati missile defenses intercepted the second and third attacks, but three civilians reportedly died in the first attack, which injured six more. After the first attack, the United Arab Emirates requested that Washington relist the Houthis as a terrorist organization, a designation that President Biden lifted last February.

While the State Department condemned the “terrorist attacks in Abu Dhabi” and noted that the “Houthis have claimed responsibility for this attack,” the department did not draw the logical conclusion that if the attack was terroristic, then its perpetrators are a terrorist organization. In the readout of a call between Secretary of State Anthony Blinken and his Emirati counterpart, Abdullah bin Zayed, the department offered the same equivocation: Blinken condemned the terrorist attack and said the Houthis claimed responsibility for it, but refused to call the Houthis terrorists.

If pressed to defend its position, the State Department would likely offer the same justification it gave upon revoking the Houthis’ terror designation — namely, that the designation would interfere with humanitarian work in Yemen. This is an excuse the administration seems to be applying broadly to avoid enforcing sanctions and designating terrorists. The administration similarly cited humanitarian reasons to help skirt sanctions on the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad.


By Craig Singleton

Previous Trend: Negative

Amid Beijing’s growing assertiveness, the U.S. military has maintained a near-persistent naval presence in the South China Sea. These operations have not been without controversy. In October, a nuclear-powered U.S. Navy submarine accidentally hit an underwater seamount while on patrol. Last month, an accident aboard a U.S. aircraft carrier injured seven American sailors and led a pilot to eject from his F-35 fighter, which now sits on the ocean floor. Early reports suggested China could seek to recover the jet, which is the newest and most advanced in the Navy’s fleet. Although Beijing no longer appears interested in claiming the downed jet, the U.S. recovery operations could take months. China will surely keep close tabs on American salvage vessels supporting the recovery, increasing the possibility of a skirmish. Given the potential for similar incidents in the future, this latest episode reinforces the need to thoughtfully enhance America’s military footprint in the region, albeit without unnecessarily or inadvertently antagonizing China. Unfortunately, the Biden administration’s recently released Global Posture Review signaled little, if any, interest in actually doing so.

Meanwhile, White House Indo-Pacific coordinator Kurt Campbell signaled that China has gained the upper hand in terms of its economic outreach in the region. While Campbell noted that the Biden administration intends to evaluate its economic engagements in the Indo-Pacific, the White House has released few details about such plans. Further hindering America’s leverage is the administration’s moratorium on new trade deals, as well as continued confusion regarding its strategy to reform the World Trade Organization to address China’s non-market practices.

International Organizations

By Richard Goldberg

Previous Trend: Positive

The Biden administration opposed a plan put forward by the World Health Organization (WHO) to raise member dues while simultaneously reducing the influence of leading donors, such as the United States. The administration is right to object to a plan that would give WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus greater autonomy, particularly given his refusal to hold Beijing accountable for covering up China’s initial COVID-19 outbreak and then obstructing investigations into the pandemic’s origin. But the administration has only itself to blame for failing to put forward its own WHO reform plan or to nominate a candidate to run against Tedros when he stands for re-election in May 2022. Tedros urged the WHO Executive Board to support his new funding plan just before the board officially nominated him for re-election on January 25.

Separately, the Biden administration asked the UN Security Council to add five North Korean individuals to the UN sanctions list over their procurement of illicit goods from Russia and China to support Pyongyang’s ballistic missile program. Moscow and Beijing blocked the request at a January 20 UN Security Council meeting. The administration managed to convince fewer than half the council’s members to join a statement criticizing recent North Korean missile launches.

Finally, the Biden administration pledged $308 million toward the United Nations’ $4.4 billion appeal for humanitarian aid to Afghanistan, despite a lack of controls to prevent UN-coordinated assistance from flowing through Taliban-controlled ministries.


By Behnam Ben Taleblu and Richard Goldberg

Previous Trend: Very Negative

As the Biden administration continues indirect talks with Tehran over its nuclear program, Deputy Special Envoy for Iran Richard Nephew and two other American diplomats left the U.S. negotiating team led by Special Envoy for Iran Robert Malley, reportedly over disagreement with Malley’s opposition to sanctions enforcement and diplomatic pressure. Nephew’s departure follows a report alleging that the Biden administration worked with Russia to offer Tehran an “interim” nuclear agreement whereby Iran would receive billions of dollars while still enriching uranium to 20 percent purity.

Meanwhile, the administration authorized South Korea to unlock portions of frozen Iranian oil funds to pay $63 million to an Iranian company and another $18 million to the United Nations for Tehran’s outstanding member dues. The White House ignored a letter from over 1,000 U.S. military veterans and Gold Star family members urging the administration to deny Iran access to frozen funds until Tehran first pays federal court judgements awarded to American victims of Iran-sponsored terrorism.

The Biden administration also failed to call out Iran for its involvement in a January 17 missile and drone attack on Abu Dhabi, claimed by Yemen’s Iranian-backed Houthi terror group. Nor has the administration decided whether it will re-designate the Houthis as a Foreign Terrorist Organization in response to that attack and follow-on missile attacks, intercepted by U.S. and Emirati missile defenses. The second attack targeted a base housing U.S. forces.

Finally, an administration official said that a nuclear deal with Iran is unlikely unless Tehran releases American hostages — a statement that implies hostage negotiations are now tied to sanctions relief.


By David May

Previous Trend: Neutral

The United States and Israel took several steps in January to deepen their partnership, counter regional threats, and advance Arab-Israeli normalization.

In mid-January, the Israel Defense Forces and U.S. Central Command held a joint aerial exercise over southern Israel. Later in the month, Israel became the 15th nation to join the U.S.-led Artemis Accords on space exploration.

On January 26, U.S. Ambassador to Israel Thomas Nides and Israeli Tourism Minister Yoel Razvozov agreed to establish a joint working group to promote tourism ventures between the United States, Israel, and Arab countries that have normalized relations with Israel. Nides, along with the Emirati, Bahraini, and Moroccan ambassadors to Israel and other diplomats, also launched the Ambassadorial Abraham Accords Working Group to promote normalization efforts. Nides said the Abraham Accords are “critical to the region’s stability and prosperity” but are “not a substitute for Israel-Palestinian peace.”

U.S. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan and Israeli National Security Advisor Eyal Hulata held a virtual meeting of the U.S.-Israel Strategic Consultative Group (SCG) on January 26. The two sides discussed developments in ongoing nuclear negotiations with Iran and in U.S.-Israeli combined military exercises. This was the fourth SCG meeting since President Biden took office.

However, the Biden administration informed Israel, Greece, and Cyprus that the United States no longer supports the proposed EastMed natural gas pipeline from Israel to Europe, citing economic and environmental concerns. The pipeline would expand Israel’s role as an energy producer and reduce the continent’s dependence on Russian natural gas.


By David Maxwell

Previous Trend: Neutral

Pyongyang began 2022 by conducting seven separate tests of missiles designed to strike targets in South Korea and beyond. Continued testing is likely.

After the first test, the Biden administration responded by designating five North Koreans operating in China and Russia in support of Pyongyang’s missile development. China and Russia blocked the Security Council from joining the U.S. sanctions, so the administration settled for issuing a joint statement with five other council members. The U.S. designations may partly be a response to indications of Chinese and Russian support for North Korean missile testing.

Those new designations notwithstanding, U.S. sanctions enforcement remains insufficient. The de facto U.S. “red line” of no nuclear or intercontinental ballistic missile tests, touted as a success during the previous administration, has effectively granted North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un freedom of action to test myriad systems below that threshold.

Significantly, a January 20 statement by the Workers’ Party of Korea suggested the regime is reconsidering its moratorium on nuclear and missile testing. North Korea’s recent missile tests reflect Kim’s dual strategy of waging political warfare while developing warfighting capabilities. As next month’s South Korean presidential election approaches, some analysts speculate that the tests are intended to influence the outcome, though it is unclear which candidate Kim desires.

Some analysts recommend that the Biden administration reboot its North Korea sanctions because Kim refuses to negotiate and instead continues to conduct provocations. More broadly, the administration needs a superior political warfare strategy to defeat Kim’s, as well as a calculated response to North Korean blackmail diplomacy.

Latin America

By Carrie Filipetti and Emanuele Ottolenghi

Previous Trend: Negative

Latin America saw a number of political changes this month, from the announcement of an unexpectedly diverse cabinet by Chile’s new left-wing “millennial” President-elect Gabriel Boric to the inauguration of Honduras’ first female President, Xiomara Castro. Vice President Kamala Harris and USAID Administrator Samantha Power led the U.S. delegation at Castro’s inauguration. The White House emphasized that Harris and Power spoke to Castro about “addressing the root causes of migration” to the United States.

The Biden administration has missed significant opportunities to support the region and U.S. interests therein. For example, the administration has ignored Brazil’s quest to gain admission to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, which the previous administration supported. At the same time, China officially overtook Brazil as the top exporter to Argentina, highlighting Beijing’s emergence as the most influential outside actor in the region after the United States.

Venezuela continues to be a pawn in Russia’s competition with the United States. Although recent Russian comments on potential military deployments to Venezuela and Cuba are likely “bluster,” as National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said, Moscow seems committed to economic and energy cooperation with Venezuela, enabling the regime of dictator Nicolás Maduro to circumvent American sanctions. Meanwhile, the Biden administration has done little to support the internationally recognized interim government of Venezuela. While the State Department is deploying appropriate messaging, the administration has yet to impose costs on the Maduro regime for its rigging of elections. Nor has Washington taken on a leadership role in prospective negotiations between the Venezuelan regime and opposition, leaving opposition figures high and dry.


By Tony Badran

Previous Trend: Very Negative

The Biden administration remains preoccupied with pushing through a pair of deals to bring gas and electricity into Lebanon via Syria despite U.S. sanctions on the Bashar al-Assad regime. On January 14, U.S. Ambassador to Lebanon Dorothy Shea handed Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati “an official written communication from the U.S. Department of the Treasury” answering some concerns with regard to the risk of sanctions.

The energy ministers of Jordan, Syria, and Lebanon signed the electricity deal in Beirut on January 26. However, fear of sanctions persists despite the Biden team’s reassurances. Before the signing, the Lebanese energy minister stressed the need to “make sure that the contract will not expose [Jordan and Egypt] to any negative consequences because of” U.S. sanctions contained in the Caesar Act. State Department officials promoting the energy deals likewise continue to express uncertainty regarding sanctions, likely because the two deals are violations under the plain meaning of the law.

Funding for the energy deals also remains uncertain. The World Bank is asking for “comprehensive” reforms of Lebanon’s notoriously corrupt energy sector before approving financing. Yet the Biden administration apparently will settle for far less. An unnamed U.S. official suggested the administration is “being very realistic” — that is, setting the bar as low as possible.

The administration’s energy envoy, Amos Hochstein, will visit Lebanon and Israel in February. He will restart his mediation effort aimed at demarcating the two countries’ maritime borders, with the stated objective of getting U.S. and European companies to invest in southern Lebanon — a region under firm Hezbollah control.


By John Hardie

Previous Trend: Neutral

As Russia continues to mass forces near Ukraine, another Russian invasion looks increasingly likely. The administration has vowed to impose tough financial sanctions and export controls if Russia invades, and has proactively exposed Russian plots to create a pretext for invasion and destabilize Ukraine. The administration sent five weapons deliveries to Kyiv last month, part of a $200 million package Biden approved in late December — after withholding it for weeks for fear of provoking Moscow. The administration also belatedly authorized allies to transfer U.S.-origin weapons to Ukraine and approved the transfer of helicopters originally intended for Afghan forces.

Meanwhile, Biden has sought to offer Putin a diplomatic offramp. Following talks with Russia, Washington and NATO gave written responses to Moscow’s demands for far-reaching security guarantees. The responses, which incorporated Ukrainian input, reiterated a willingness to discuss what Moscow called “secondary issues,” such as arms control. As Putin lamented, however, the allies rejected Moscow’s core demands, including for a guarantee against further NATO enlargement.

Moscow has not yet abandoned diplomacy but insists that talks merely on secondary issues are unacceptable. Putin, likely underestimating the costs of a potential invasion, may believe he can renegotiate Ukraine’s future — and Europe’s broader security order — by force.

Biden’s policy of pursuing “stable and predictable” U.S.-Russia relations, designed to free up resources to focus on China and other issues, lies in tatters. Indeed, his obvious desire to reduce focus on Russia may have helped convince Putin that Washington can be coerced into an accommodation. Regardless of whether Russia invades, Biden will need to go back to the drawing board.

Sunni Jihadism

By Bill Roggio

Previous Trend: Negative

More than 200 Islamic State fighters launched an assault on the al-Sina prison in Syria’s city of Hasaka. At least 200 Islamic State fighters and prisoners, 30 members of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), and an unknown number of civilians were killed in the fighting at the prison and in surrounding neighborhoods, which Islamic State fighters controlled for several days. An unknown number of the group’s fighters have escaped. The U.S. military launched airstrikes in support of the SDF.

The Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan has launched a series of assaults against Pakistani security forces, including attacks in Islamabad that killed several policemen. A private group helped four Americans and 19 legal U.S. residents escape from Afghanistan. The Taliban and Western officials have begun talks in Norway, where the terror group is seeking access to billions of dollars in funds currently frozen in U.S. banks.

The Somali National Army claimed it killed 21 al-Shabaab fighters while repelling an attack in Somalia’s Galgadud region. Al-Shabaab subsequently killed 12 people in a pair of suicide attacks in Somalia’s capital of Mogadishu and 13 more civilians in several attacks in Lamu in Kenya. Kenyan officials later claimed security forces killed 15 al-Shabaab fighters. The Malian government expelled Danish special forces who were participating in the French-led task force. Ansaru, a Nigerian terrorist group, reaffirmed its allegiance to al-Qaeda.

In better news, a U.S. drone strike in Yemen reportedly killed Abu Omar al-Hadhrami, military commander of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.


By David Adesnik

Previous Trend: Negative

U.S. troops in northeastern Syria conducted strikes and provided “limited ground support” to the Syrian Democratic Forces as they stopped an Islamic State prison break that targeted a facility holding 3,000 inmates in the city of Hasaka. The attack, which employed sleeper cells and suicide bombers, was the largest and most sophisticated operation the terror group has launched in northeastern Syria since the fall of its caliphate in 2019. The scale of the attack came as a surprise, although the U.S. commander in the region acknowledged that the “makeshift prisons throughout Syria are a breeding ground for Daesh’s failed ideology.” The attack demonstrated the value of maintaining a small contingent of American ground forces in Syria. The Pentagon reported no casualties.

On Capitol Hill, the chairmen and ranking members of the House and Senate foreign relations committees sent a letter to President Biden warning him that “[t]acit approval of formal diplomatic engagement with the Syrian regime sets a dangerous precedent for authoritarians who seek to commit similar crimes against humanity.” The White House insists that it does not support Arab states’ renewed engagement with the Bashar al-Assad regime, yet the trigger for that engagement was U.S. approval of the regime’s participation alongside Lebanon, Jordan, and Egypt in a regional gas and power deal.

On January 13, a German court convicted a Syrian intelligence officer and sentenced him to life in prison for crimes against humanity, including murder and sexual assault. Additional trials are under way, yet the regime’s leaders remain out of reach.


By Aykan Erdemir

Previous Trend: Negative

In January, the Biden administration pursued a charm offensive toward Turkey’s increasingly authoritarian President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, hoping he will alleviate Washington’s foreign policy challenges in Afghanistan and Ukraine. The readout of Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s January 3 phone call with his Turkish counterpart highlighted the importance of continued U.S.-Turkish coordination “regarding the threat of Russian escalation in Ukraine,” but avoided any mention of the problems caused by Erdogan’s purchase of the Russian S-400 air defense system. On January 20, Turkey and Qatar, leading patrons of political Islam worldwide, announced they had reached an agreement on ensuring security at Kabul’s main airport, pending the Taliban’s approval, through a plan endorsed by the Biden administration.

On January 26, former Senator Jeff Flake presented his letter of confidence to Erdogan and officially became U.S. ambassador to Turkey. An op-ed Flake penned for the occasion sent the Turkish government a very warm message, with the exception of the sentence, “Challenges to our relationship can be addressed in good faith.”

Overall, the Biden administration continued its silence on Turkey’s abysmal human rights record. An Istanbul court on January 17 ruled to continue the imprisonment of Osman Kavala, Turkey’s leading minority-rights advocate, incarcerated on fabricated charges. Although a German official called Turkey out for “violating its obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights,” Washington looked the other way. Joining European allies in pressuring the Erdogan government would have offered the Biden administration a chance to put into action its promise of a human rights-centered foreign policy.


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


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