Despite Tensions, Turkey's President Will Visit Washington. What's Next For U.S.-Turkey Relations?

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Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and US President Donald Trump wait for a meeting at the Palace Hotel during the 72nd United Nations General Assembly September 21, 2017 in New York City.   (Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images)
Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and US President Donald Trump wait for a meeting at the Palace Hotel during the 72nd United Nations General Assembly September 21, 2017 in New York City. (Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images)

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan comes to Washington at a time of heightened tension between the two NATO allies. We ask where the relationship is headed.


Matt Karnitschnig, chief Europe correspondent for Politico Europe. (@MKarnitschnig)

Lara Seligman, Pentagon correspondent for Foreign Policy. (@laraseligman)

Aykan Erdemir, senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD). Former member of the Turkish Parliament. (@Aykan_erdemir)

Amb. Robert Pearson, a non-resident scholar at the Middle East Institute. Former ambassador to Turkey.

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Politico Europe: "Germany's 'braindead' defense debate" — "The anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall 30 years ago has forced Germans to confront variations on a basic question: 'How did we get here?'

"That reflection is particularly fraught when it comes to the issue of security, a challenge many in 1989 hoped would be resolved with the end of the Cold War.
Instead, security concerns have returned to the forefront of the political agenda, with the country once again struggling to define its role in the transatlantic alliance, Europe and beyond.

"If there’s one thing Germany’s politicians and talking heads would agree on, it’s that their country needs to “take on more responsibility,” as everyone from the German president to the chancellor to successive foreign and defense ministers have repeated again and again over the past few years."

The Atlantic: "Why Is Turkey in NATO Anyway?" — "'We think that this is a bad idea.'

"A senior State Department official told reporters yesterday that the Turkish attacks on northeastern Syria targeting Kurdish fighters who have been America’s best partners in defeating ISIS in the country would help no one—not even Turkey. 'This will not increase their security, our security, or the security of anybody else in the region.'

"Donald Trump, after a call with the Turkish president on Sunday, promptly moved U.S. troops out of the area, clear of the coming bombardment. Otherwise they risked death at the hands of a NATO ally.

"But what kind of ally forces Americans to flee from their friend’s American-made F-16s? For that matter, on America’s part, what kind of ally would arm and support a group Turkey considers a band of terrorists? How did the United States and Turkey end up tied together in NATO, when both their values and interests seem so far apart?"

Foreign Policy: "Washington Rolls Out the Unwelcome Mat for Turkish President" — "Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is jetting to Washington next week for an Oval Office meeting with U.S. President Donald Trump to talk about the future of Syria. If Trump plans give the Turkish president a warm welcome, Erdogan can’t expect the same from the rest of Washington. Congress is still seething over Erdogan’s invasion of northeastern Syria, which upset a tenuous peace and put at risk the United States’ strongest allies in the fight against the Islamic State, the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces.

"More than one lawmaker has called on Trump to uninvite Erdogan, and some are pushing to slap more sanctions on Turkey if it continues targeting the Kurdish forces, who Ankara views as a terrorist threat. Meanwhile, prompted by congressional concern, the administration is investigating “credible” reports that Turkey misused U.S.-supplied weapons in the Syria operation.

"Erdogan almost canceled. Erdogan had threatened to call the visit off after the U.S. House of Representatives last week voted to formally recognize the Armenian genocide over a century ago. He backed off that plan after a call with Trump last night that appeared to patch things up with the White House, at least temporarily."

Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD): "Erdogan Labors to Explain Baghdadi and Family" — "Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced Thursday that the number of people Turkey has caught with family ties to slain Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is “close to reaching double digits.” This is the latest in a series of statements by Turkish officials designed to showcase Ankara’s vigilance amid growing criticism of its negligence and complicity with the Islamic State.

"Baghdadi’s death on October 26, less than three miles from the Turkish border in northwest Syria, triggered allegations that the terrorist leader “enjoyed some tacit Turkish protection.” A senior U.S. official stated, “Turkey did not provide any assistance in this operation and [Baghdadi] was located right next to their border. That shows you how little they do on countering ISIS.” Brett McGurk, former U.S. envoy for the anti-ISIS Coalition, pointed out that the U.S. had chosen to 'launch this operation [against Baghdadi] from hundreds of miles away in Iraq, as opposed to facilities in Turkey, a NATO ally, just across the border.'

"Complicating matters further for Erdogan, a November 6 exposé in The National cited discussions with Iraqi intelligence officials to claim that one of Baghdadi’s brothers traveled to Istanbul several times since the end of 2018. As the U.S. Treasury Department’s April and September designations of Turkey-based Islamic State financiers also show, the country has become an increasingly permissive jurisdiction for jihadists."

Politico: "Trump to confront Erdogan on purchase of Russian air defense system" — "President Donald Trump plans to confront President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey this week about his country’s decision to defy NATO and buy a Russian air defense system, a senior White House official said on Sunday.

"National security adviser Robert O’Brien said on CBS’ “Face the Nation” that “we’re very upset” about Turkey’s decision to purchase the Russian S-400 system, which the U.S. has said could aid Russian intelligence and threaten a vital American aircraft, the F-35 fighter jet. If Turkey doesn’t get rid of the system, O’Brien said, the country will “feel the impact” of sanctions passed by a bipartisan majority in Congress.

“'There’s no place in NATO for significant Russian military purchases,' O’Brien said. 'That’s a message that the president will deliver to him very clearly when he’s here in Washington.'

"His comments come days before Erdogan is scheduled to visit the White House and hold a joint news conference with Trump. The two NATO allies have clashed lately on issues from Turkey’s buying the S-400 system to its invading northern Syria after U.S. troops began their withdrawal there."

Washington Post: "District braces for planned visit by Turkish President Erdogan" — "The last time Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan visited Washington, members of his security detail overran police and were caught on video beating demonstrators at Sheridan Circle, violent clashes that drew condemnation and criminal charges against more than a dozen of the leader’s guards.

"But newly revealed State Department memos show the two-day visit in 2017 was filled with other troubling antics and discord. D.C. police and federal officers who were supposed to be helping protect a visiting head of state were instead entangled with his security forces from the moment the delegation’s two planes touched down at Joint Base Andrews.

"At one point, U.S. authorities intervened in a squabble among the Turkish guards. In another case, they seized a guard’s weapon and handcuffed him. They later admonished a security officer who accosted a passerby filming the entourage on a downtown street and barred a guard from traveling in a State Department car. In the course of the visit, several U.S. officers and federal agents were hurt, and at least one was punched."

This program aired on November 12, 2019.


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