Only Trump can influence Erdogan

Only Trump can influence Erdogan

Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s ultimate strategic objective is a revision of international treaties which, in his opinion, unfairly keep Turkey in shackles. Turkey’s strongman has referred to the “Blue Homeland” and the “borders of the heart” which, evidently, no longer coincide with the country’s modern-day boundaries.

Erdogan won’t listen to anyone. He will occasionally insult state leaders – including major ones, like he recently did with French President Emmanuel Macron. The only foreign leader he will listen to is Donald Trump. This is not because the two have that many things in common or because of the American president’s special interest in Turkey. Rather, it’s because his actions are governed by the rule of force. And this point does not just concern the military dimension.

Erdogan is convinced that the US president can, in fact, destroy Turkey’s economy as he has threatened to do in the past. It became clear to him a year ago with the case of US pastor Andrew Brunson; and he acted accordingly. Brunson was released.

During his meeting with Trump at the Oval Office, Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said what he had to say; he even interrupted Trump to highlight Greek objections and concerns. The inevitable question is, did Trump really pay heed to what Mitsotakis said? And if he did, what does he plan to do?

Greece is a strategic US ally (bilateral defense cooperation is getting stronger by the day). At the same time, it has built the appropriate alliances, working with the two countries that make the pillars of US policy in the Eastern Mediterranean, namely (and primarily) Israel and Egypt, which carries a particular symbolism and influence in the Arab world.

The US follows developments in Greece’s wider region and expresses its concern and its willingness to assist in lowering the tension. It is the only power that can influence the Greek-Turkish equation and drive results, provided of course that its intervention is in the right direction. But in order to be effectual, any engagement must come from the president.

It’s far from certain that even US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo or Vice President Mike Pence can exert meaningful influence over Erdogan. Only Trump, the head of the most powerful military machine and leader of the world’s biggest economy that no one can afford to ignore, can do it. That is, if he chooses to step in himself.

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