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Foundation for Political, Economic and Social Research.
Joe Biden was selected as Barack Obama’s vice presidential candidate largely because of his expertise in foreign policy. Traditionally, in U.S. politics, Dick Cheney-like strong vice presidents are exception, not the rule.
It is wiser to focus on Obama’s foreign policy outlook rather than Biden’s, which would benefit Turkey in the long run with its realistic tendencies. Biden’s voting pattern, as it is displayed in three different issues (Cyprus-Armenian Issue-Iraq) does not seem friendly to the Turkish position. However, Biden as a statesman would not create extra problems for Turkey at the expense of U.S national interests. In all of these issues, the person that should be watched carefully is Obama, not Biden. Spending more energy to analyze Obama’s geopolitical priorities can benefit Turkey in the long run.
Presidential elections in the U.S. always draw attention from the world because of their potential to create new tensions, change balances and shift policies. Turkey is one of the countries that has been carefully observing the positions of presidential and vice-presidential candidates regarding contentious issues such as Armenian Genocide claims, the possible partition of Iraq, Cyprus, and broader issues related to the Balkans, the Black Sea, the Caucasus and the Middle East. With the emergence of Senator Barack Obama, a politician who identifies the events of 1915 as genocide and who advocates a phased withdrawal from Iraq, as the democratic presidential candidate, Turkey turns its focus to the potential vice-presidential candidates, hoping that the second powerful political figure would balance Obama’s policy preferences which have been perceived as against the Turkish position.
Nevertheless, Obama’s choice of the veteran Delaware senator Joseph Robinette Biden Jr. has disappointed Turkish politicians, policy makers and diplomats. Joseph Biden, whose Senate career spans thirty-five years, has become known for his pro-Armenian, pro-Greek ideas and voting record, and is also famous for his proposal of the “Biden Plan” – a plan that defends a soft-partition in Iraq. Turkey had crucial reserves about this plan and finds it unacceptable. Considering the political careers and positions of the democratic candidates, if the Obama-Biden ticket makes its way to the White House, how will this team affect Turkish-American relations? How should Turkey react to the positions the team holds?
Biden’s Career and Political Position
To begin with, it is almost a conventional wisdom that 2008 presidential elections will be a foreign policy election. Joe Biden, one of the 2008 presidential hopefuls just a couple of months ago, contributes to Obama’s career on this issue as a foreign policy expert. Biden completes some of Obama’s weaknesses with his private life and political career. As a Catholic, white politician, Biden’s seniority and his extensive knowledge on foreign policy issues makes him a vital catch for Obama. In his long career, Biden has generally followed the voting pattern of the George McGovern- Ted Kennedy wing of the Democratic Party, i.e. the liberal left. However, as a “cold-war liberal” who supported harsh policies against Soviets, Biden did not refrain from voting yes to military interventions whether it seemed humanitarian or not. This makes him a trusted politician in the eyes of the Washington insiders, or establishment; in fact, he is one of the standard-bearers of the establishment.