Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has repeatedly persuaded U.S. President Donald Trump to make decisions that pit Trump against his own national security advisers and Republicans allies, the New York Times reported on Tuesday, citing Turkish and American officials.
Following a phone call with Erdoğan on Sunday, Trump announced his decision to pull out U.S. troops in northeast Syria to pave the way for Erdoğan to launch a military incursion against Kurdish-held territories along the Turkish border.
Trump’s relationship with Erdoğan has already survived at least one major test last year, when the U.S. President announced sanctions against two Turkish ministers and doubled tariffs on Turkish metals over almost two-year detention of an American pastor.
Trump’s move hit Turkey’s ailing economy and triggered a currency crisis with lira losing almost 30 percent of its value against the dollar in 2018.
Facing backlash from Republicans, Trump warned on Twitter on Monday that he would destroy the Turkish economy if Turkey took steps in Syria that he would consider off limits.
“But American and Turkish officials alike describe an unusual partnership in which Mr. Erdogan has repeatedly guided Mr. Trump toward positions that pit him against his own national security advisers and Republicans allies,” the New York Times said. “Analysts call it an oddity of their relationship that two naturally combative leaders, both prone to explosive public insults, seem to understand each other and believe they can sort things out by phone.”
“They share a similar worldview, they dislike elites,” Özgür Ünlühisarcikli, the director of the German Marshall Fund of the United States’ office in Ankara, told the New York Times. “Trump would probably like to govern the way Erdogan does.”
Despite bipartisan support for sanctions in the U.S. Congress, Trump also avoided imposing measures on Turkey over Ankara’s decision to purchase Russian S-400 missile systems. The U.S. president has frequently blamed the former administration under Barack Obama for pushing Turkey to buy Russian systems by declining to sell it U.S.-made Patriot batteries.
“Trump is trying really hard to avoid slapping sanctions on Turkey, and that’s partly because he’s trying to not rupture his relationship with Erdoğan,” said Soner Cağaptay, the director of the Turkish Research Program at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.