Getting ready for the first meeting with Trump
Donald Trump is likely to become the most unusual U.S. president after he takes office on Jan. 20, 2017. The picks he has so far made for his administration have already started to give an idea about the shape his term will take.
Trump’ latest pick, retired general James “Mad Dog” Mattis, endorses the belief that his administration’s foreign policy will follow a harder line than that of the outgoing President Barack Obama. Mattis, named by Trump as defense secretary, is known as a hawk from his former duties in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Trump had still not announced his secretary of state at the time when this article was being written, but world leaders have already gotten the message: Their first meeting is likely to be a tough match, and it will probably remain tough afterward.
Almost all world leaders are preparing for their first meeting with Trump after he assumes the presidency. For some of them there might be earlier contacts, but the most relevant meeting will be their first one after Trump has taken office, both as POTUS and commander-in-chief.
Every government around the world will try to have the maximum possible number of items in their hands to start negotiating their positions with Trump, who considers dealings with the outside world as a process of give-and-take: The more you have, the more you end up with if you give some of it up in return for whatever you might get from Trump.
Leaders and countries are thus trying to maximize their positions with some extra gains before Trump takes office. For Turkey, that could mean using the Turkish presence in Syria in support of the Free Syria Army (FSA); for India, it could mean drawing attention by further ramping up the nationalistic mood in the country; for Germany, it could mean strengthening its position as de facto leader of the EU while confronting pressure from Russia; for Iran, it could mean expanding its influence in Iraq and Syria as much as possible before Trump takes the reins of power.
Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım said last week that “fluctuations” (which are practically a depreciation) of the Turkish Lira against the U.S. dollar (and also against the euro and other strong currencies) might continue until Trump takes over the Oval Office. He said the Central Bank was taking care of it and claimed there was no cause for alarm.
The markets did not pay much attention to Yıldırım’s words. The lira’s depreciation against the dollar continued after he announced on Dec. 1 an agreement with the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) over a constitutional shift to executive presidential system, as President Tayyip Erdoğan has demanded for years. On Dec. 2, Erdoğan called on all Turkish citizens to sell all their dollars and foreign currencies to buy liras or gold. That call was followed by the Istanbul Stock Exchange converting all its cash reserves into liras.
Nevertheless, the lira hit another record low and there are still one-and-a-half months until Trump takes office. His administration might anyway be full of surprises for Turkey and for Erdoğan’s administration, which is ready to take all necessary risks to shift the system to consolidate executive power in the president’s hands.
Under the circumstances, will Erdoğan be ready for that first meeting? It seems the arrow has already left the bow, and we will have to wait and see.