A video showing Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden arguing that the US should rally behind the Turkish opposition drew a huge backlash in Ankara, which denounced the remark as meddling in its internal affairs.
The clip, which was filmed in December for a January episode of the New York Times’ documentary series ‘The Weekly’, began making waves on social media on Thursday, after it was picked up by Kurdish journalist Arif Zêrevan.
In the video, Biden says that the US, presumably under his presidency, should “make it clear” that “we support opposition leadership.”
I’m still of the view that if we were to engage [with the opposition] more directly like I was doing with them, that we can support those elements of the Turkish leadership that still exist and get more from them and embolden them to be able to take on and defeat Erdogan
Biden added that he does not want to see Erdogan toppled in a coup, but rather ousted through the “electoral process.”
While airing his grievances regarding the Erdogan government, Biden specifically mentioned Ankara’s refusal to cave in to Washington’s pressure and cancel the deal to buy Russian-made S-400 air defense systems. The Turkish military received its first S-400 shipment last year, and confirmed in June that it had “agreed in principle” with Moscow on the second delivery.
Although Washington retaliated by suspending Turkey from the list of contributors to the F-35 program and threatened sanctions, Biden said it was not enough.
He has to pay a price. He has to pay a price for whether or not we’re going to continue to sell certain weapons to him.
“In fact, if he has the air defense system that they’re flying F-15s through to see how they can try to figure out how to do it,” he added.
The video, which is part of an extensive NYT interview with Biden and whose transcript was published back in January, has caused a ruckus in the Turkish-speaking part of the Twittersphere, sending Biden’s name trending.
As Atatürk said: INDEPENDENCE is our character! Changing the Turkish government is the responsibility of the Turkish nation, not yours! @JoeBidenAtatürk’ün de söylediği gibi BAĞIMSIZLIK Karakterimizdir! Türkiye’de Hükümet değiştirmek sizin işiniz değil, milletin işi.
— Muharrem İNCE (@vekilince) August 15, 2020
While the remarks were made when Biden had not yet become the presumptive Democratic nominee, the spokesman for the Turkish president minced no words, ripping into the former VP for what he hoped would be denounced by Washington as “undiplomatic remarks unseemly of a presidential candidate” and a NATO ally.
“US Presidential candidate Joe Biden’s remarks (made in December but reported by the media today) reflect the games being played over Turkey and their interventionist attitudes,” Fahrettin Altun tweeted.
US Presidential candidate Joe Biden’s remarks (made in December but reported by the media today) reflect the games being played over Turkey and their interventionist attitudes. These remarks are not in line with democracy and the nature of Turkish-American relations.
— Fahrettin Altun (@fahrettinaltun) August 15, 2020
While Trump has yet to comment on the controversy, people on Twitter wasted no time in taking Biden to task.
“He expresses a clear intention, if president, to work to unseat Erdogan. That is unwise, a policy destined to bring about instability and conflict,” Michael Doran, senior fellow at the Hudson Institute, tweeted.
Biden on Turkey. Not clear when and where this was filmed. He expresses a clear intention, if president, to work to unseat Erdogan. That is unwise, a policy destined to bring about instability and conflict. This is what passes for statemanship? pic.twitter.com/Tto8npyqCH
— Mike (@Doranimated) August 15, 2020
Others noted that what Biden suggested doing in Turkey is a clear-cut example of election meddling, calling out the hypocrisy of Democrats.
“You cannot complain about ‘Russian interference with US elections’ and promise to do the same in a NATO ally country,” Umut Acar, former Turkish consul general to Chicago, said.
Biden’s words are problematic for so many reasons but let me put it in a way that “liberal progressive Americans” can understand. You cannot complain about “Russian interference with US elections” and promise to do the same in a NATO ally country. pic.twitter.com/tqPhZnQPXA
— 🇹🇷 Umut Acar (@AcarUmut) August 15, 2020
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