Tony Shaffer: President Trump Is Putting Turkey on Notice

US President Donald Trump (L) talks to Turkeys President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (R) as they arrive for the NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) summit, at the NATO headquarters in Brussels, on July 11, 2018. (Photo by Tatyana ZENKOVICH / POOL / AFP) (Photo credit should read TATYANA ZENKOVICH/AFP/Getty Images)
TATYANA ZENKOVICH/AFP/Getty Images

Turkey claims that Donald Trump stabbed them in the back with sanctions, tariffs, and tough talk following the illegitimate arrest of an American pastor.

He didn’t. He counter-punched them, and they deserved it.

President Trump is right in taking a strong approach toward Turkey — an erstwhile NATO ally that has undermined American interests for decades.

The bilateral relations between the two countries have recently been strained by Turkey’s disgraceful arrest of an American evangelical pastor, Andrew Brunson, in 2016, who is now charged with espionage.

Despite Washington’s claim that Turkey’s charges are unfounded and a round of hopeful diplomatic negotiations with Turkish officials in Washington, a court in Izmir last week rejected the U.S. appeal to secure Brunson’s release from detention. This is behavior reflective of a totalitarian state like Cuba, not of a NATO ally — and something we cannot tolerate.

The panic in Ankara was on full display this month in the wake of a rapid decline of the Turkish currency sparked by fears that President Trump is waging an “economic war” against the NATO member. Some prominent politicians in Turkey have asked President Recep Erdoğan to “seize Trump Towers” in Istanbul. In an act of desperation, Turkey is now considering reforming its currency — a move that will likely do nothing to alleviate its economic woes.

Earlier in August, the president also announced plans to increase tariffs on Turkish steel by 50 percent and aluminum by 20 percent, while acknowledging that relations between the two countries “are not good at this time.”

President Trump’s approach will undoubtedly push Turkey to change its stance toward Washington. According to numerous forecasts, U.S. sanctions against top Turkish officials, Trump’s renewed geopolitical pressure, and the plunging value of its currency will only accelerate the decline of Turkey’s economy.

If Erdoğan was skeptical about supporting his NATO ally in the past, the current economic predicament will make him think twice about snubbing America in the future.

Erdogan’s support of totalitarian regimes, including Nicolas Maduro’s Venezuela, should also be concerning for Americans. Just in May, the Turkish leader backed Maduro’s bid for reelection despite President Trump’s threat to ramp up sanctions against the country.

To make matters worse, Turkey also frequently cooperates with Putin, having just reached a $2.5 billion deal to purchase Russian S-400 surface-to-air missiles, and with future plans to work on joint defense projects. Yet Turkey wants our F-35 advanced fighter – this is not an acceptable mix.

Likewise, instead of fully backing President Trump’s campaign in Syria, the leader of Turkey boasted of authorizing an “Ottoman slap” against American forces that sought to derail his military operations in the region. These are not the words of a U.S. ally.

Erdoğan cozying up to Russia and Iran as potential economic and national security partners is not only laughable, it has moved Turkey into the direction of national suicide.

While the previous administration demonstrated weakness by failing to stand up to Russia and Iran, President Trump has vowed to revive America’s global status and push back on countries that take Washington’s support for granted. This promise is well on the way to being fulfilled.

Standing up to Turkey’s anti-American agenda is an excellent example of how the U.S. can recover from decades of failed foreign policy that only managed to produce major embarrassments.

The effects of Trump’s retaliation against Erdogan have already been felt by the feeble Turkish economy that is now deeply wounded. Knowing that Turkey needs America much more than America needs Turkey, President Trump can now negotiate from a position of strength and push our NATO ally to fully support Washington’s interests in the region.

It is high time that an American leader challenges Turkey’s posturing, and forcefully condemn its acts of treachery. President Trump is that leader. He will fight back in meaningful ways that will bear results.

Lt. Col. Tony Shaffer is a retired senior intelligence operations officer who served more than 30 years with the U.S. Army and is the Vice President for Strategic Initiatives & Operations at the London Center for Policy Research.

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