During the G20 summit, Donald Trump met with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to discuss the heated issue of Ankara’s purchase of Russian made S-400 missile systems in the wake of Washington suspending Turkey from participation in the F-35 programme that Turkey had long payed a key role in supporting. When speaking to the press beside Erdoğan, Trump blamed the apparent impasse between the NATO allies on Barack Obama.
“Turkey is a NATO member and was not treated fairly. They [Obama administration] wouldn’t sell him [Erdoğan], they wouldn’t let him buy the missile he wanted to buy which is the Patriot. And after he buys something else, they say now we will sell you the Patriot. So I have to tell you, he [Erdoğan] is a NATO member and he is somebody I have become friendly with. And you have to treat fairly. You understand that? You have to treat fairly. I don’t think he was treated fairly. I don’t think he was treated fairly”.
Trump went on to say the following:
“The president [Erdoğan] was not allowed to buy the Patriot missiles, he wanted to do this, but he wasn’t allowed by the Obama administration to buy them until after he made a deal to buy the other missiles. So he buys the other missile and then all of a sudden, they say you can buy our missile. You can’t do business that way, it is not good. It is not good”.
Trump later stated that contrary to rumour, there would be no anti-Turkish sanctions over Ankara’s S-400 purchase.
BREAKING — Erdogan just now , “Trump said there would be no S-400 sanctions”
— Ragıp Soylu (@ragipsoylu) June 29, 2019
There is far more to Trump’s statements than meets the eye. Although Trump has a tendency of bringing up the mistakes made by his predecessor Barack Obama in order to explain present difficulties, when speaking about Obama’s failure to provide Turkey with its initial weapons of choice, there was an added meaning that most Turks would have instantly understood. Whilst many in the US feign unaware, the majority of patriotic Turks blame the Obama administration for enabling or even orchestrating the treacherous coup of 2016 in which Gülenist terrorists (FETO) attempted to overthrow the Turkish state. Furthermore, it was under Obama that the US took up arms beside the YPG/PKK terror group in Syria whilst traditional avenues of cooperation contracted ever more.
Things have not exactly been smooth sailing for Turkey-US relations under Donald Trump, not least because close US ally Israel’s relations with Turkey have become so dismal that Tel Aviv is now allied with Nicosia and Cairo against Turkey’s gas rights in the eastern Mediterranean. But just as Trump defied the clear wishes of the neocons over war with Iran, he can certainly do so in respect of defying the the neocon elite of Washington over restoring normalcy in relations with fellow NATO ally Turkey.
By pinning the blame on Barack Obama for the poor state of US-Turkey relations, Trump is pinning the blame on a man largely hated for the role that many Turks believe he played in supporting Gülenist terror. Trump’s message to Turkey is one that is simple and effective. It can be summarised as follows: ‘I didn’t start these troubles but I will work with you to find a solution‘.
Given the intensity of rapidly declining relations between Ankara and Washington over issues ranging from the S-400s to disagreements over Syria, Trump used his rhetoric effectively and now must work to fight back against the neocons whose stupidity could push Turkey out of NATO.