Who lost Turkey?

U.S. President Donald Trump has a strange way of expressing his self-love and self-admiration. He wants everybody to also love and admire him. In one of his recent tweets, he declared himself “Your all-time favorite President.” In it he declared that “his favorite self” has gotten tired of waiting for China “to help out and start buying from our FARMERS!”

He may have to twist lots of Chinese arms to convince them that hormone-laden U.S. fruit and groceries are the best, but he succeeded in securing the love and affection of his followers because his message has been retweeted 20,000 times and “liked” 100,000 times.

What an ego. In the history of the U.S., people have many favorite presidents. You have Abraham Lincoln, for instance, who practically ended race-based politics and the right of secession from the union of the U.S. For many Americans, especially for those who worked for the state and defense departments, their favorite president must be Harry Truman, who created NATO – which did not succeed in preventing the expansion of the Soviet Union but did keep Germany and France from fighting and thus starting another world war.

“Donald-the-real-favorite-president-Trump” received 23,000 responses on Twitter to his message, some of which strongly disagree with him on the subject. Some get quite nasty with words and images attached. However, what is really nasty are his relations with Congress.

The White House’s relations with not only the Democrats but even hardcore Republicans are becoming more tense every day. A case in point is imposing Countering America’s Adversaries through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) sanctions on Turkey because of the Turkish purchase of air defense systems from Russia. That act became law on Aug. 2, 2017, four months after Turkey had decided – and shaken hands with Russia – to purchase the S-400 systems following protracted efforts to purchase air defense systems from the U.S. with no success. Therefore, the sanctions mentioned in Section 2 of the law on countering Russian influence in Europe and Eurasia cannot be applied to Turkey because of the international rule of the non-retroactivity of laws.

But senators and representatives who hate Trump are hell-bent on pushing Trump to throw the book at Turkey by implementing the law. According to talks with U.S. officials, it seems that the Trump administration may be willing to go easy on Turkey, but Congress seems ready to label Turkey “out of the fold” if it receives the S-400 shipment. The language of these “unnamed U.S. officials” is so commanding and threatening that, given the Turkish psyche, any Turkish government would be tempted go out and purchase another set of Russian defense systems simply out of pride.

It can be said that Turkey’s last offer to create a technical committee to oversee the deployment of the S-400s, to inspect the “friend-or-foe” information uploaded to their databases and investigate if the installation of the system creates a backdoor for Moscow is the final offer by Ankara.

Turkey is a NATO country, and all other NATO members are Turkey’s allies in theory, if not in reality. Real allies do not sanction each other. Turks are not what those retired U.S. generals remember from their tour of duty in the U.S. bases they had in Turkey once. The meek, submissive and obedient Turkey is now history. The compliant Turkish officials are gone. Since the last popular revolt of 2002, Turks value their pride. It is not that the government is now totally an uncompromising brick wall. Quite the contrary. The U.S. side should see that President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu’s relentless efforts to find a way to solve the S-400 issue as a sign that Turkey values the NATO alliance.

The Turkish people’s perception of what is happening is a simple “good cop-bad cop” game. Turks no longer appreciate the game. Trump and Congress may both regret that they pushed their luck too far.

Source: Daily Sabah

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About the author

Hakki Ocal

Hakki Ocal

Hakkı Öcal is a columnist at both Daily Sabah and Milliyet newspapers, which are based in Istanbul. He is also an advisor to the President of Ibn Haldun University.

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