Trump threatens Erdogan
U.S. President Donald Trump warned Ankara that if Turkey hits Syrian Kurds, Washington will devastate it economically. No U.S. troops have been withdrawn from Syria yet, while the president has been proactive, announcing possible actions against his NATO ally.
"Starting the long overdue pullout from Syria while hitting the little remaining ISIS territorial caliphate hard, and from many directions. Will attack again from existing nearby base if it reforms. Will devastate Turkey economically if they hit Kurds," Trump said on Twitter. At the same time, the U.S. leader noted that he did not want Syrian Kurds to provoke Turkey into military actions. "Russia, Iran and Syria have been the biggest beneficiaries of the long term U.S. policy of destroying ISIS in Syria - natural enemies. We also benefit but it is now time to bring our troops back home. Stop the endless wars," the U.S. President concluded on Twitter.
Ankara could not help noticing Trump's tweets and immediately responded. The respond came from Ibrahim Kalin - President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's press secretary. He stressed that Turkey has not been waging a war against randoms, but against specific terrorists. Obviously, this was not enough for Ibrahim Kalyn, and he clarified that "Turkey fights against terrorists, not Kurds." The presidential spokesman stressed that equating Syrian Kurds with the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) is a "fatal mistake", and Turkey intends to protect Kurds and other Syrians against all terrorist threats. "Terrorists can’t be your partners and allies," Ibrahim Kalyn wrote, referring to Donald Trump's tweets, and once again pointing our that "there is no difference between ISIS and PKK."
The previous economic conflict between the United States and Turkey also began with a war of words on Twitter. After which Donald Trump imposed the sanctions on a number of Turkish officials, and later doubled import duties on Turkish steel and aluminum. Washington’s decisions exacerbated relations with Ankara, and Trump's subsequent statements full of unconcealed schadenfreude didn’t help to improve it.
Announcing the tariff increases to 20% for aluminum and 50% for steel, the president of the United States said: "The Turkish Lira slides rapidly downward against our very strong dollar!" And all this happened on the next day after the visit of the Turkish delegation, which arrived in the U.S. in order to minimize losses and reduce tensions. As a result of Washington’s actions, a severe financial crisis erupted in Turkey, its national currency, the lira, depreciated against the dollar by almost 40%, the growing Turkish economy was noticeably shaken, but what's even worse, it lost stability.In addition, it hit Turkey's main economic partners. In particular, Georgia turned out to be so strongly tied to the Turkish economy, that its national currency was also affected.
The situation was difficult, and JP Morgan Asset Management expressed concern about Ankara’s ability to repay dollar debts: Turkey is in the center of a perfect storm - deteriorating financial conditions, a souring of investor sentiment, economic mismanagement and external threats emanating primarily from the United States in the form of tariffs. This is augmented by an unexpected increase in oil prices, due to which the position of Turkey, a hydrocarbon-importing country, has become dire indeed.
In those crisis days, President Erdogan called on the Turkish people and neighboring countries to respond to the economic war declared by the U.S.. He said that "Turkey is not afraid of any threats...It has alternatives for economic cooperation in many places from Iran, to Russia, to China and some European countries."
But it didn't really go beyond rhetoric. They had to carry out operational and extremely painful reform actions. But the situation in Turkey began to improve only when the United States loosened a boa's grip a little. Now Recep Tayyip Erdogan himself does not react to Trump’s defiant and unpleasant threats. We must assume that it's really difficult for the Turkish leader remain silent. And the reasons for Erdogan’s restraint, who usually has a ready tongue, are understandable.
Head of the club of political scientists 'South Caucasus' Ilgar Velizde, commenting on the possible aggravation of relations between Washington and Ankara, told Vestnik Kavkaza that Turkey's inflation in July-September 2018 showed that the Turkish economy is extremely dependent on the dollar and all adverse events, which could affect Turkey's investment attractiveness, "took place."
"Investments have sharply declined - the political situation immediately affects the economy. Using last year’s experience, Donald Trump decided to send such a message to the Turkish side. His threats are not just words, they are not groundless, because if the situation repeats, the Turkish economy will lose billions of dollars. Last October, Ankara somehow managed to stabilize the situation, radical economic reform efforts were undertaken," Velizade told Vestnik Kavkaza. According to him, if such U.S. pressure is repeated, then unfavorable conditions will affect Turkey again, inflationary expectations will worsen, which will have a detrimental effect on economic growth. In short, Trump has a leverage, and Ankara will have to play a very subtle game in order not to provoke Washington to use the new anti-Turkish economic levers.