Nov 01 2017

U.S. may follow Germany in exerting economic pressure on Turkey

The United States may follow the lead of Germany to exert political pressure on Turkey through economic means,

Getting "quietly tough" with Ankara could help U.S. President Donald Trump bring the country back into line on regional issues such as Iraq and Syria, Jakob Lindgaard, a scholar specialising on Turkey and Kurdish issues at the Danish Institute for International Studies, wrote in War on the Rocks.

A political spat between the two countries, prompted by the arrest of two U.S. consular employees, raises the question of whether U.S.-Turkey relations can be brought back from the brink, according to Lindgaard. Key alignments in place since the Cold War - on Russia and Iran for instance - may be disappearing.

Russian President Vladimir Putin successfully brought Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to heel by levying economic sanctions when the Turkish military shot down a Russian plane flying near Turkey's border with Syria in November, 2015. The recent release of a German human rights activist from a Turkish jail could be the result of Germany cracking down on financial support to Turkey from European investment banks, Lindgaard wrote.

 

Predictions are a difficult feat with Donald Trump and Recep Tayyip Erdoğan at the helm, but the U.S. balancing act with Turkey nonetheless seems to be growing increasingly untenable. Geopolitical factors that used to keep the always difficult balancing act on track are no longer in place. Combined with a steep rise in bilateral tensions and a shrill anti-Americanism in Turkey, these factors have rendered relations with Turkey increasingly difficult for the United States to manoeuvre.

Erdogan seems to be increasingly engaging in hostage politics, including the imprisonment of a U.S. pastor on terrorism charges, in order to get his way on key disagreements between the two countries, such as a demand that the U.S. hand over Islamic preacher Fethullah Gulen, who Erdogan accuses of masterminding an attempted coup against his government last year, said Lindgaard.

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