Turkish dictator Recep Tayyip Erdogan is arriving in Washington today for a state visit with President Trump. If you find this news to be somewhat unsettling given all of the headlines about Turkey in the news recently, you’re not alone. Frankly, I’m not sure that Turkey even qualifies as an ally of the United States these days. If there were to be any meetings going on regarding Erdogan, I’d have thought they would involve NATO leaders discussing Turkey’s future membership. But for better or worse, Trump will be talking to Erdogan and holding a press conference this afternoon. (Associated Press)
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and President Donald Trump will meet as relations between the two NATO allies are at their lowest point in decades, with Turkey rebuffing the U.S. and turning toward Russia on security issues and Ankara facing a Washington backlash over attacks on Kurdish civilians during its incursion into Syria last month.
Erdogan and Trump have a difficult agenda Wednesday that includes Turkey’s decision to buy a Russian air defense system and its attack on U.S.-allied Kurdish forces in northern Syria. Their scheduled afternoon news conference, however, will give Trump a stage to counter the first public hearings in the House impeachment inquiry.
The President is describing this as a trade negotiation meeting, and he’s certainly within his rights to address such matters. But even on the subject of trade, Turkey has been a bad faith actor this year. Our supposed ally has already purchased two shipments of Russian S-400 missile systems, despite having been offered our Patriot missiles as an alternative. The Russian technology is not compatible with the equipment used by NATO forces and may wind up compromising restricted military hardware.
On top of that, Erdogan is reportedly close to inking a deal to purchase Su-35 fighter jets from the Russians as well. At this point, that might wind up being for the best because the other alternative was to have the United States sell them our state of the art F-35 fighters. If Erdogan is just going to turn around and expose our most advanced military hardware to his new buddies in Moscow, that turns the sale into a Lose-Lose proposition.
And let’s not forget that Turkey is currently patrolling the northern border of Syria in conjunction with Russian troops. Reports continue to surface of Turkish military units gunning down Kurdish civilian protesters.
Trump’s argument that our relationship with Turkey (dating back almost seventy years) is too important to simply abandon is worth consideration. At nearly any other time that would be very true and perhaps something can still be salvaged. But the fact is that Erdogan’s rise to power several years ago marked the end of democratic initiatives in that nation and a slide toward tyranny and oppression. Hundreds of thousands of Turks (including journalists, educators and political rivals) have been locked up in prison or simply “disappeared.” Even if the President comes out of this meeting with some sort of new trade agreement, I can’t see this meeting turning Turkey back into a reliable ally.