Erdoğan complains about ‘Cold War’ mindset in US
The most concrete observation about the meeting between President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and U.S President Donald Trump on Nov. 13 in Washington D.C. would be the continued affinity between the two men despite a number of unresolvable disagreements.
At the press conference, both leaders were very generous in praising each other’s leaderships, but were reserved when it came to efficient ways to resolve multiple bilateral problems.
But still, Erdoğan has expressed his government’s readiness to open a new page on ties with the U.S. as he underscored the importance of the long-standing strategic bonds between the two nations.
For his part, Trump echoed the significance of good ties with Turkey as the second-largest army of NATO where the two nations work together in various anti-terror struggles in different parts of the world.
However, nice words were insufficient in overcoming longstanding problems between the two countries.
Erdoğan has intensified his pressure on Trump to cease the U.S. support to the YPG as he tried to convince his colleague about the terrorist acts and separatist agenda of the group through a booklet and a video. The video shown to Trump and to five Republican senators featured YPG leader Mazlum Kobane’s terrorist past in the ranks of the PKK, which is in the list of terror organizations of the United States.
Although the U.S. has withdrawn its troops from northeastern Syria after the Turkish military operation, its partnership with the YPG endures under a new objective. The U.S. has relocated its troops to protect the oil fields of Syria and announced its plans to allow the YPG benefit from the oil revenues. That constitutes another big concern for Turkey as the government officials believe that benefiting from a lucrative oil business would further increase the capacity and ambitions of the YPG for an autonomous region in eastern Syria.
On Turkey’s long-standing demand for the extradition of Fethullah Gülen, it was not possible to hear a positive response from President Trump. But he was happy to announce that NASA employee Serkan Gölge, a U.S. citizen with Turkish descent who was imprisoned in the aftermath of the July 2016 failed coup, will soon return home.
As signaled before Erdoğan’s trip, Washington has once again picked up the Turkish deployment of the S-400 air defense systems from Russia as one of the top contentious problems between the two countries.
Although Turkey has completed the transfer of the systems from Russia and announced that the S-400s will be ready to be activated in the spring of 2020, Erdoğan and Trump have agreed to establish a new commission to ponder ways to resolve the problem.
The commission will bring Secretary of Defense Mark Esper and Defense Minister Hulusi Akar as well as Trump’s National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien and Erdoğan’s chief foreign policy adviser İbrahim Kalın.
Comparing to other senior Turkish officials, Kalın and Akar are known for their milder statements on ties with the U.S. while the latter’s tendency to find ways to keep Turkey as part of the F-35 joint fighter program is also acknowledged in the Turkish capital.
Having said that, the establishment of such a commission does not necessarily mean that Turkey will cancel the deployment of the systems and will not activate the S-400s next year.
Speaking to reporters on his return, Erdoğan has underlined the significance of Turkey’s multilayered relationship with Russia, citing ongoing cooperation in the field of energy, six million Russian tourists and a nearly $30 billion trade volume as important facts to this end.
Erdoğan’s illustration of the nature of the Turkish-Russian relationship has obviously disturbed one of the senators during the meeting at the White House. “I won’t name but one of them asked ‘Which one is your enemy: Russia or the U.S.?’ You see, these are this kind of politicians. Could there be such a political understanding? I told them just one thing: I do not want to make foes. I want to be friends with both America and Russia,” Erdoğan stressed.
“On the one hand, you will say you will work with us on the basis of win-win, but on the other hand you will ask ‘Who is your enemy? Me or them?’ There is no such thing. This politics is over,” he added.
He obviously referred to the Cold war era where the world powers were in two rival camps. Erdoğan wants to clarify that Turkey is not obliged to choose its side and it can work with both NATO allies and Russia at the same time.
President Erdoğan reiterated that Turkey is ready to purchase U.S.-made Patriot air defense systems if it receives a good offer from Washington. “But I will not cancel the S-400s for Patriots,” Erdoğan underlined, repeating once again that the Turkish army would use both systems at once although the Russian one would serve as a stand-alone weapon.
The Turkish leader is drawing attention on a new reality in this neighborhood. NATO ally Turkey and Russia are developing a long-term and substantial relationship, in a way to break all the remnant taboos and the power balance of the Cold War era.