Trump-led troubles oblige closer ties between Turkey and Europe
United States President Donald Trump is a man of his word. He began a massive trade war in the world, reversed some of key Obama-era laws, withdrew his country from the Iranian nuclear deal, pressed on NATO countries to increase defense expenditures, relocated the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv and etc. All these were his pre-election promises to the American people and he’s delivering them now.
Many of his foreign policy actions, however, are creating serious problems at the global and regional level and Turkey is one of the countries that observes and is affected of them. From the point of view that highlights the Turkish interests, three of his foreign policy moves in particular are of concern to Ankara.
The first one is his decision to relocate the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem by recognizing the Holy City as the capital of the State of Israel. Turkey, as the rotating term president of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), had to initiate a counter-action against the move and particularly after the killing of dozens of Palestinians by Israeli security forces. As a result of this Trump-led tension, already fragile ties between Turkey and Israel have been cut once again.
The second decision of his was to arm Syrian Kurdish groups at the expense of Turkey’s warnings. Ties between two allies have long been suffering of Trump’s move and there is no clear sign on whether the ongoing Manbij deal would put things back on the right track in Syria.
Trump’s obsessions about Iran make the third item on this list. Trump, in a Twitter statement, warned the entire world not to do business with Iran if they still want to do business with the U.S. He said sanctions will be imposed on countries and companies if they insist on doing business and trade with this country.
Turkey is now trying to deal with all these problems produced by the Trump administration within its own capacity. The Iranian sanctions will likely hurt Turkey which supplies around half of its oil from Iran. It’s a great concern for several Turkish companies which found opportunities to do business in the neighboring country especially after the lifting of embargoes.
Turkey, like many European countries, had already announced that the U.S. decision to quit the agreement was wrong and it will not abide by unilateral sanctions. President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan earlier informed about a four-way summit to take place in Istanbul on Sept. 7 with the participation of Russian, French and German leaders.
This upcoming meeting is surely very important, but two things should be well tailored: It should not look like anti-U.S. gathering especially in light of the Iranian sanctions. Secondly, Turkey should better concentrate to find a common language with European countries rather than with Russia when it comes to issues concerning Trump’s foreign policy moves.
This chain of crisis with the U.S. should push Turkey to re-calibrate its foreign policy with the objective of re-alignment with the EU. This might perhaps constitute a new and right beginning for future reconciliation between Ankara and Brussels.