March 1, 2022 | FDD Tracker: February 2, 2022-March 1, 2022

Biden Administration Foreign Policy Tracker: March

March 1, 2022 | FDD Tracker: February 2, 2022-March 1, 2022

Biden Administration Foreign Policy Tracker: March

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.

Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24, ending what hope remained that Washington and Moscow could “build a stable and predictable relationship,” as President Joe Biden initially proposed. As Russian forces advanced toward Kyiv, Western sanctions against Russia and arms transfers to Ukraine went much further than Washington and its allies threatened while attempting to deter the invasion. Had their readiness to do so been clear from the outset, perhaps Russian President Vladimir Putin might have hesitated to invade. An even less pleasant surprise for Putin has been the resilience of Ukrainian forces in the first days of the war; whether they can keep playing David to the Kremlin’s Goliath is open to considerable doubt, even as Western arms and materiel begin to flow freely.

Despite Moscow’s aggression, the Biden administration continued working with Russia to secure a nuclear deal with Iran, with signs of a possible agreement in early March despite Tehran’s continued obstruction of UN nuclear inspections. Putin waited patiently for the Winter Games to wrap up in Beijing before launching his invasion, letting the Chinese government finish its celebration of impunity for the atrocities it continues to commit against its citizens.

“The triumph of democracy and liberalism over fascism and autocracy created the free world,” Biden wrote during his presidential campaign, warning that “this contest does not just define our past. It will define our future, as well.” Will the president now take those words to heart?

Arms Control and Nonproliferation

By Anthony Ruggiero and Andrea Stricker

Previous Trend: Negative

Negotiations between the United States, Iran, and five world powers are reportedly moving closer to reviving a weakened version of the 2015 nuclear deal. A preliminary phase of the agreement will reportedly entail Iran’s suspension of its enrichment of uranium to greater than 5 percent purity in return for around $7 billion in repatriated assets. The proposed deal envisions a mutual return to the 2015 accord, but there has been no agreement on timing. Starting next year, many of the accord’s original restrictions will begin to expire in phases, positioning Tehran to expand its advanced centrifuge enrichment program, rapidly make nuclear weapons material, and further grow its missile capabilities.

Due to ongoing diplomacy with Iran, it is unlikely that the International Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA) Board of Governors will pass a resolution at its quarterly meeting in March that would demand Tehran cooperate with the IAEA’s nearly four-year-old investigation into the regime’s nuclear activities. At the nuclear talks, Tehran has insisted that world powers close the investigation.

The Biden administration reportedly agreed to a Russian proposal that would reduce the number of UN Security Council meetings on Syria’s chemical weapons use. This threatens to reverse the administration’s support for implementing the Chemical Weapons Convention and reduces the likelihood of accountability for the possession and use of chemical weapons by Damascus and its patrons in Moscow. The March meeting of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons’ Executive Council should shed light on whether the administration intends to de-emphasize ongoing investigations of Syria and Russia.


By Craig Singleton

Previous Trend: Neutral

China fell far short in leveraging the 2022 Olympics in Beijing to rehabilitate its battered image. In 2008, China used the Olympics to announce its return as a great power; however, the Winter Games were plagued by record low viewership, a partial diplomatic boycott, and a barrage of negative publicity surrounding Chinese human rights violations. The little positive coverage that did break through was overshadowed by the crisis in Ukraine and questions regarding Beijing’s tacit support for Russia’s invasion. This year’s Olympics also coincided with the 50th anniversary of former President Richard Nixon’s decision to re-establish diplomatic relations with China. While its legacy is mixed, Nixon’s bold gamble underscores how the Biden administration has yet to articulate its own China policy, let alone release its National Security Strategy. The result: Biden’s views on competition with China remain a mystery both to the American people and to Beijing.

What is clear is that China has not lived up to most of the commitments it made in the Trump-era Phase One trade agreement. At the same time, the Biden administration has failed to articulate its U.S.-China trade strategy, including possible plans to deepen economic integration with those countries most at risk of falling victim to Beijing’s debt traps. Also unknown is Biden’s willingness to forge new trade deals or increase market access for select foreign countries, like Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, or Indonesia. Such confusion, more than a year into Biden’s first term, bodes ill for Washington’s readiness to comprehensively fend off China’s predatory, non-market practices.


By RADM (Ret.) Mark Montgomery and Annie Fixler

Previous Trend: Neutral

In the lead-up to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the Biden administration worked closely with allies to harden cyber defenses. Anne Neuberger, the deputy national security adviser for cyber and emerging technology, traveled to Europe to help allies prepare to deter, disrupt, or mitigate the effects of attacks on U.S. and NATO critical infrastructure. Increased collaboration was most prominently on display in the rapid, joint U.S.-UK attribution of cyberattacks on Ukraine to Russian military intelligence.

The administration simultaneously continued its outreach to the private sector, issuing a “shields up” alert that identified cyber hygiene best practices, a resource guide that included free cybersecurity tools, and an advisory on Russian operations against the U.S. defense industrial base. Federal officials also briefed state and local governments. President Biden warned Moscow that Washington is “prepared to respond” to Russian cyberattacks on U.S. companies and critical infrastructure. The administration’s strategy also included unprecedented disclosures of intelligence about Russian disinformation campaigns to undermine Moscow’s attempts to paint Ukraine as the aggressor.

Despite these productive steps, the conflict in Ukraine shows how much work remains to achieve effective public-private collaboration through real time information sharing and collective defense mechanisms. The Biden administration’s appointment of the first-ever national cyber director; its strengthening of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency and its Joint Cyber Defense Collaborative; and the Department of Justice’s commitment to disrupt cyber threats may fortify U.S. capabilities in the long term, but they are not likely to significantly improve U.S. responses this time around.


By Bradley Bowman

Previous Trend: Neutral

After Russia launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine on February 24, the Biden administration has worked with allies to send Kyiv additional weapons. In response to the Russian attack, Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov pleaded for as many anti-tank and anti-aircraft weapons as possible. A few days later, Biden authorized an additional $350 million in military assistance to Ukraine, including anti-armor and anti-air missiles, small arms, various munitions, body armor, and related equipment.

Such post-invasion steps by the administration are laudable. But it would have been better to more assertively arm Ukraine before the invasion. Indeed, deterring conflict is cheaper than dealing with its consequences. Even if Putin was determined to proceed regardless, earlier and more robust action to arm Ukraine before the invasion would have further increased the costs for Russia and better prepared Ukrainian forces.

While total U.S. security assistance approved for Ukraine over the last year exceeds $1 billion, the administration’s delivery of weapons to Ukraine has been both belated and insufficient. The Pentagon saw indications of a Russian invasion of Ukraine early last year, with warning signs flashing for all to see in the fall. And to its credit, the Biden administration was warning of a possible Russian military invasion in November. Yet the administration failed to translate those warnings into a sufficient campaign to arm Ukraine before the invasion. In fact, the administration dithered for weeks in December and January, finally sending additional weapons and authorizing America’s Baltic allies to rush U.S.-made weapons to Ukraine only after significant pressure from Congress.


By John Hardie

Previous Trend: Neutral

Washington and its allies failed to deter President Vladimir Putin from launching a full-scale invasion of Ukraine. The good news is the transatlantic alliance is now unified and has shown surprising willingness to stand up to Russia and provide military aid to Ukraine.

The United States has bolstered its force posture on NATO’s eastern flank to reassure allies. On February 2, the Pentagon announced it would deploy 1,700 troops from the 82nd Airborne Division to Poland, move a 1,000-member Stryker squadron from Germany to Romania, and put a Joint Task Force-Capable headquarters from the 18th Airborne Corps in Germany. The Pentagon later decided to deploy an additional 3,000 82nd Airborne troops to Poland and announced new training missions in Bulgaria and Hungary.

On February 22, the administration ordered aviation and ground force elements already stationed in Europe to redeploy to NATO’s northeastern and southeastern flanks. After Russia launched its full-scale invasion, Washington ordered an additional 7,000 troops to Europe and says more could follow.

The EU, historically cautious about economic sanctions against Russia, has joined Washington in levying unexpectedly muscular measures. Even neutralist Switzerland has joined in. After long refusing to provide Ukraine with lethal military aid, Germany has joined the United States and European allies in pledging a large package of weapons and other support to Ukraine. Berlin also suspended certification of Nord Stream 2, fulfilling a reported promise to Washington.

Still, one wishes they would have communicated their readiness to go this far before Russia invaded. Perhaps things might have turned out differently.


By Hussain Abdul-Hussain

Previous Trend: Very Negative

President Biden asked Congress to designate Qatar as a major non-NATO ally, a move at odds with Washington’s supposed plans to pivot away from the Gulf region. Such a pivot would be a strategic error, yet the elevation of Qatar demonstrates favoritism toward a less-than-reliable partner. According to the Defense Department, the designation “opens up a full range of opportunities,” including exercises, operations, and Qatar’s “acquisition of capabilities.”

Since at least 2001, Qatar has pursued two apparently contradictory foreign policies. On the one hand, Doha has hosted a U.S. military base at Al-Udeid, advancing Washington’s efforts to project power in the Gulf. On the other hand, the gas-rich emirate has sponsored Islamist groups, including ones that were eventually placed on the State Department’s list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations (FTO). Doha also hosts leaders from several FTOs, including Hamas and, until recently, Afghanistan’s Taliban.

While upgrading military cooperation with Doha, Washington has dragged its feet on selling arms to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and at times threatened to stop sales of offensive weapons to Saudi Arabia. Unlike Doha, the UAE and Saudi Arabia have played an instrumental role in the war on radical Islamism alongside their contributions to global energy security. That the Biden administration has upgraded its alliance with the wily Qatar while hesitating in relations with more reliable allies sends the wrong message to friends and foes alike.


By Craig Singleton

Previous Trend: Neutral

The Biden administration finally released details of its Indo-Pacific Strategy; however, the announcement received scant attention on account of Russia’s impending invasion of Ukraine. Administration officials were emphatic that the long-delayed document was not, in fact, a “China policy.” Instead, the strategy simply recognizes the Indo-Pacific as a “particularly intense region of competition,” albeit without reference to Washington’s competitor — China. Overall, the strategy appears eerily similar to the one put forward by former President Barack Obama a decade ago, in that it seeks to rejuvenate America’s alliance system in the region. At the same time, it does little, if anything, to re-establish an effective military deterrent to counter China’s increasingly belligerent behavior. It remains unclear whether the Biden administration can simultaneously balance America’s security needs in two distinct theaters — Europe and Asia — or whether Washington will divert resources intended for the Indo-Pacific to Ukraine, much to Beijing’s delight.

While Russia’s Ukraine invasion united NATO members seemingly overnight, such unity has eluded America’s Pacific partners. France recently removed Australia from its list of close “strategic partners,” a decision that came on the heels of a diplomatic row that erupted when the United States, the United Kingdom, and Australia announced a new defense pact last year. That arrangement came at the expense of a now-defunct military agreement between Paris and Canberra. Quad member India has also refrained from strongly condemning Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, putting it out of step with Washington. All told, Beijing will seek to exploit these divergences to undermine Washington’s broader policy objectives in the region.

International Organizations

By Richard Goldberg

Previous Trend: Neutral

Within hours of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s recognition of the independence of two breakaway provinces of eastern Ukraine, the Biden administration worked with Ukraine and others to convene an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council to isolate Russia on the world stage — even as Russia held the Council presidency. U.S. Ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield has since continued to marshal international condemnation for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine both at the Security Council and in the UN General Assembly. The State Department, however, undercut Thomas-Greenfield’s pledge to isolate Russia at the UN by issuing an explicit authorization for diplomats to continue working with Russia across the UN system and other international organizations.

Separately, the State Department announced the United States would not cooperate with the UN Human Rights Council’s commission of inquiry into Israel and encouraged other states to follow suit. While the administration’s continued condemnation of the commission of inquiry is welcome, the department simultaneously declared that the administration believes the Council “plays a crucial role in promoting respect for human rights as well as fundamental freedoms around the world.” This statement suggests the administration will not threaten to leave the Council if the inquiry moves forward with a report that labels Israel an apartheid state — an action that meets the definition of antisemitism according to the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance. If so, Congress may soon need to intervene to cut off taxpayer support and diplomatic participation in an organization that blatantly promotes antisemitism.


By Behnam Ben Taleblu and Richard Goldberg

Previous Trend: Very Negative

The Biden administration, in close partnership with Russia, moved closer in February to a nuclear agreement with Iran, although a U.S. official says “difficult issues” still linger. According to reports, the deal may be implemented in phases, with the U.S. first unfreezing billions of dollars in Iranian oil revenues held overseas. The U.S. would reportedly lift most, if not all, sanctions imposed after Washington’s 2018 departure from the original deal, while Iran may retain some or all of its advanced centrifuges. The Biden administration may also be considering removing the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps from the State Department’s Foreign Terrorist Organization list. Talks continue despite outstanding IAEA concerns relating to Tehran’s undeclared nuclear activities and limiting of access to certain sites. Like the prior deal, the new agreement is not expected to cover Iranian missiles and other long-range strike platforms.

In the run-up to the 43rd anniversary of the Islamic Revolution this month, Iran unveiled a new solid-propellant medium-range ballistic missile (MRBM) that can reportedly travel up to 1,450 kilometers. Dubbed the Khaibar Shekan, or “Breaker of Khaibar,” in a reference to an early Muslim battle against Arabia’s Jewish population, the missile is Iran’s third solid-propellant MRBM and second MRBM derived from Iran’s Fateh-class of single-stage solid-propellant missiles. Meanwhile, former U.S. Deputy Envoy for Iran Richard Nephew issued a statement via Twitter acknowledging he had “departed the U.S. Iran team on 6 December due to a sincere difference of opinion concerning policy” and announcing he had left the administration.


By David May

Previous Trend: Positive

The Iran nuclear talks dominated U.S.-Israel relations for most of February, while Russia’s invasion of Ukraine took precedence towards the end of the month.

On February 6, President Biden told Prime Minister Naftali Bennett that he plans to visit the Jewish state later this year. According to the White House readout of their phone call, “The President underscored his commitment to expanding” the Abraham Accords. The two also discussed “the threat posed by Iran and its proxies.”

Israeli leaders have grown increasingly uneasy with the trajectory of nuclear talks with Iran. On February 20, Bennett warned that the emerging Iran deal will “likely create a more violent, more volatile Middle East.” The following day, Foreign Minister Yair Lapid said Israel will do whatever is necessary to prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear threshold state. Nonetheless, Lapid touted the importance of “dialogue with the American administration.” A U.S. spokesperson rejected the Israeli criticism and stressed the need for Washington to seize the “opportunity for diplomatic progress.”

Meanwhile, Israel has been careful not to upset the balance it has struck with Russia in the skies over Syria. However, in late February, several senior Israeli officials declared that they will side with the U.S. if a conflict erupts in Ukraine. The U.S. protested Israel’s refusal to support a UN Security Council resolution condemning Russia. However, Israel has indicated it will support a similar resolution at the UN General Assembly. Such a resolution would not be subject to a Russian veto.


By David Maxwell

Previous Trend: Negative

North Korea was relatively quiet in most of February, with no missile tests — after seven in January — until February 27. It is possible Pyongyang did not conduct tests due to the Beijing Olympics in order to placate China. It is likely the regime remains focused on severe internal problems ranging from food insecurity to COVID mitigation measures. Pyongyang claims the latest ballistic missile test is to support a future reconnaissance satellite. The regime may be signaling it intends to conduct another ICBM test, its first since November 2017.

Former South Korean military leaders severely criticized the incumbent Moon administration in an inflammatory article that included allegations of seeking to dismantle the United Nations Command (a long-time North Korean objective), weakening the ROK/U.S. military exercise program, hastily relocating U.S. military forces for political purposes, and rushing to transition operational control.

ROK presidential elections will take place March 9. The race is very close between the two leading candidates, conservative Yoon Suk-yeol and liberal Lee Jae-myung. The third major candidate, Ahn Cheol-soo, could be a spoiler in the manner of Ross Perot in the 1992 U.S. presidential election. Ahn rejected a merger offer from Yoon.

Both Yoon and Lee published articles in Foreign Affairs in February. Yoon outlined a foreign policy and national security strategy that aligns very well with American priorities, and he described a more expansive role for South Korea in Asia and beyond. Lee outlined a policy that emphasizes growth at home and South Korean leadership in Asia, and builds on the current ruling party policies.

Latin America

By Carrie Filipetti and Emanuele Ottolenghi

Previous Trend: Neutral

The Biden administration was mostly able to maintain unity among its Latin American allies in condemning Russian aggression, with the notable exceptions of Mexico and Brazil. While Brazil voted against Moscow at the UN Security Council in last Friday’s vote, Brazil’s president, Jair Bolsonaro, has since shown his true colors.

Bolsonaro visited Moscow days before Russia’s invasion began, expressing solidarity with Vladimir Putin and publicly chiding the Biden administration’s criticism of his visit. Brazil’s UN ambassador refrained from blaming Russia at a UN Security Council debate the night Moscow’s invasion began. Bolsonaro also disavowed his vice president, Hamilton Mourão , for condemning Russia. Mexico’s president, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, initially took an ambiguous position on the invasion of Ukraine, but later condemned Russia.

Russia could only count on the open support of its traditional allies, Cuba, Nicaragua, and the Maduro regime in Venezuela, with Bolivia not taking sides. The Biden administration should now hold the Maduro regime accountable for supporting Russia. Sanctioning oil entities under Putin’s control in Venezuela could hold two authoritarian governments accountable at the same time.

In the fight against corruption, Washington issued an arrest warrant for Honduras’ former president, Juan Orlando Hernandez, only days after he left office. Honduran police quickly arrested Hernandez. This high-profile action followed a Department of State announcement that Hernandez had been on a U.S. blacklist of corrupt officials since July 2021, but the Biden administration kept his status classified due to his diplomatic immunity while in office. The new government of Honduras’ swift cooperation implementing the U.S. request reflects close and effective diplomatic coordination.

The U.S. also announced it had revoked the U.S. visa for Juan Ernesto Villamayor, former interior minister of Paraguay and former chief of staff of the country’s sitting president. This move shows that Washington intends to use naming and shaming tactics when corrupt politicians are beyond its judicial reach.


By Tony Badran

Previous Trend: Very Negative

The Biden administration notified Congress of its plans to supplement the monthly salaries of the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) and Internal Security Forces (ISF) by repurposing $67 million of military assistance and $16.5 million of counter-narcotics funding. The provision of so-called “livelihood support” to the LAF and ISF breaks with standard practice and the statutory intent of these assistance programs, which is to provide training and equipment. The LAF reportedly expects additional funding for salaries from the administration’s reported plan to set up an $86 million UN-managed fund for that purpose.

The administration also continued working to supply Lebanon with Egyptian gas and Jordanian electricity via Syria. The inclusion of Syria would violate U.S. sanctions law, but the administration has signaled it will declare the deals exempt. However, Cairo and Amman are not satisfied with the State Department’s reassurances and are asking for stronger guarantees, especially as Republican members of Congress have come out against the deals.

During his visit to Lebanon in February, the administration’s energy envoy, Amos Hochstein, expressed increased optimism regarding his effort to mediate the delineation of the Israel-Lebanon maritime boundary. The Lebanese have backed down from their earlier claim of hundreds of kilometers inside Israeli waters, but are still claiming the entire disputed area. One Lebanese objective is to take the entirety, or most, of a potential gas field in Lebanon’s offshore exploration Block 9, which extends into Israeli waters. It is unclear what proposal Hochstein is carrying to the Israelis, and how it might embroil them in the administration’s expressed goal of investing in south Lebanon, which Hezbollah controls.


By John Hardie

Previous Trend: Negative

Having failed to deter a full-scale Russian invasion of Ukraine, Washington and its allies now seek to punish Russia economically while supporting Ukraine against the Russian invaders.

After President Vladimir Putin recognized the Donbas proxy republics and ordered in Russian “peacekeepers,” the transatlantic allies imposed an initial round of comparatively modest sanctions. Germany halted the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, and Washington sanctioned the Russian company responsible for it.

Putin’s full-scale invasion triggered much harsher sanctions. Most notably, Treasury barred Russia’s largest bank from accessing the U.S. financial system, blocked five other major Russian financial institutions, and prohibited dealings in new equity or new debt of over 14 days maturity for 13 top Russian firms. The Commerce Department levied export controls designed to restrict Russia’s access to “vital technological inputs.” Transatlantic allies and Japan announced similar measures. The allies also imposed sanctions aimed at undercutting Moscow’s ability to defend the ruble and will remove “selected Russian banks” from the SWIFT financial messaging service.

Russia’s economy is now in crisis. The ruble plunged to a record low, prompting Russians to swarm ATMs and banks amid concerns over inflation and bank runs. Desperate, Moscow hiked interest rates to 20 percent and is forcing major exporters to sell four-fifths of their foreign currency reserves.

Putin clearly got more than he bargained for, both militarily in Ukraine and from Western sanctions. Unfortunately, he appears unwilling to back down, and Russia has yet to unleash its full military might against Ukraine. As Russian forces look to encircle Kyiv, the greatest test is yet to come.

Sunni Jihadism

By Bill Roggio

Previous Trend: Negative

Islamic State emir Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Qurayshi died during a raid conducted by U.S. special operations forces in Idlib province in northeastern Syria, ending a two-year hunt for the group’s leader. Al-Qurayshi is thought to have killed himself and several family members with a suicide bomb after a standoff with U.S. troops. He was killed just miles from where his predecessor, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, was killed in late 2019. Both former Islamic State leaders were sheltering in an area near the Turkish border controlled by Hayat Tahir al Sham, an al- Qaeda linked terror group that controls much of Idlib. The U.S. State Department’s Rewards for Justice program offered a $10 million bounty for information leading to the arrest and prosecution of Sanaullah Ghafar, the emir of the Islamic State Khorasan Province. Pakistan released 46 members of the Al Qaeda-allied Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan as it continues to seek peace with the group.

The Malian government ordered French and allied troops that are battling al-Qaeda allied jihadists to leave the country. The French government agreed to begin its withdrawal and is planning to redeploy some of its forces to the neighboring country of Niger. The Malian government may open talks with the jihadists. Shabaab, al-Qaeda’s branch in East Africa, has launched a series of attacks in southern and central Somalia, including suicide attacks in the capital of Mogadishu. The attacks are designed to disrupt the upcoming elections. The U.S. military launched its first drone strike in Somalia in seven months.


By David Adesnik

Previous Trend: Negative

Speaking by phone with Putin, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad welcomed the invasion of Ukraine as “a correction of history and a restoration of balance in the global order after the fall of the Soviet Union.” The Syrian leader blamed NATO expansionism for the conflict and condemned Western power for using “dirty methods to support terrorists in Syria and Nazis in Ukraine.” The Syrian cabinet moved to cut spending, anticipating that military action in Ukraine may drive the prices of oil and wheat even higher, raising the costs of imports on which Syria depends.

The Biden administration continued to press for the completion of two regional energy deals that would entail substantial payments to the cash-strapped Assad regime. The main obstacle to the administration’s plans is the U.S. sanctions law known as the Caesar Act, which requires the executive branch to impose sanctions on those who do business with the Syrian government. On February 9, U.S. energy envoy Amos Hochstein indicated the administration may exempt the two energy deals from Caesar sanctions on the grounds that they supposedly do not entail any transactions with the Assad regime, although Hochstein conceded there would be “payments” to Damascus.

On February 3, Biden announced the death of Islamic State leader Hajji Abdullah in a raid conducted by American special forces in the town of Atmeh, near the Syrian border with Turkey. In 2019, a U.S. raid on a safehouse just 10 miles away resulted in the death of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the previous Islamic State leader.


By Aykan Erdemir

Previous Trend: Negative

In February, the Biden administration continued courting Turkey’s increasingly authoritarian president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, hoping the Turkish strongman would end his balancing act between Ukraine and Russia and join Western sanctions against Moscow. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, in his February 24 phone call with his Turkish counterpart, Mevlut Cavusoglu, thanked Turkey for its “strong and vocal support” in Ukraine, while conveniently glossing over Erdogan’s opposition to sanctioning Russia, failure to close the Turkish airspace, and refusal to take any punitive action against the Kremlin.

On February 28, Blinken thanked Turkey for its “continued implementation of the Montreux Convention” only minutes after Cavusoglu’s belated announcement that Ankara will start to implement transit restrictions through the Turkish Straits. Ironically, Ankara’s restrictions target not only the warships of the belligerent parties, Russia and Ukraine, under Article 19, but all warships, apparently under Article 21, which would also block U.S. and NATO warships from entering the Black Sea.

While courting Erdogan, the Biden administration maintained its silence on Turkey’s abysmal human rights record. An Istanbul court on February 21 ruled to continue the imprisonment of Osman Kavala, Turkey’s leading human-rights advocate, whom the government incarcerated on fabricated charges. Although European Parliament Turkey Rapporteur Nacho Sánchez Amor called Turkey out for its “umpteenth legal trick in this mockery of due process,” 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 Palestinian Politics Russia Syria The Long War Turkey U.S. Defense Policy and Strategy