Trump-Erdoğan relations came at cost of U.S. national interests – FDD report

Outgoing U.S. President Donald Trump’s relationship with “autocrats’’ such as Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan over the past for yours has led to repeated suffering of  “U.S. national interests,’’analyst Aykan Erdemir said.

The threat of sanctions from the U.S. in response to the prosecution of Pastor Brunson, an American missionary, helped secure his release, and that sanctions also helped to limit the scope of Turkey’s intervention in Syria in 2019, Erdemir wrote in a report  for the U.S. think tank, Foundation for Defence Democracies .

Trump’s disinterest in foreign policy allowed Turkey to pursue an irredentist attitude towards its claims in the Eastern Mediterranean, to which the United States was slow to react, according to Erdemir.

Erdemir is a former Turkish main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) lawmaker who quit active politics in 2015. He also sits on the Anti-Defamation League's Task Force on Middle East Minorities.

The report’s recommendations encourage the incoming administration of President-elect Joe Biden to take a tougher line with Turkey, support Turkish civil society organisations, and take steps to secure the release of American consular staff, two of whom are still jailed in Turkey.

It also recommends applying pressure for Turkey to abandon its Russian S-400 missiles and select a replacement from a NATO member, and that CAATSA sanctions should be enforced and Turkey kept out of the F-35 aircraft programme until it complies.

The Biden administration should also “deepen energy and security cooperation with allies and regional partners in the Eastern Mediterranean” and “work with the European Union to devise coordinated sanctions against Turkey’s violations of its neighbors’ maritime borders”.

Erdemir suggests that the U.S. should make economic assistance contingent on domestic reforms, and encourage a return to the Kurdish peace process while trying to help Turkey come to a ‘modus vivendi’ with the Kurdish Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).

The recommendations are ambitious, and it remains to be seen what level of priority Biden will give to the U.S.’ relationship with Turkey.