Trump and Erdogan: No News Is Bad News
Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s highly anticipated meeting with President Trump this week in Washington had decisionmakers bracing for fireworks. What they got was an absolute dud.
While the specific details of what was discussed have not fully emerged, American officials released a collective sigh of relief even before Erdoğan’s plane left the United States. What could have been a showdown between two allies never happened, and in its place, Turkish officials complained about the Russian leaking scandal overshadowing their critical meeting.
The chorus of analysts in Washington who predicted a “collision course” between Turkey and the United States over the Trump administration’s decision to arm the Kurds in Syria, a group Ankara considers terrorists and an existential threat, proved to have been too pessimistic. Meanwhile, analysts from Turkey who hoped for a “reset” in relations with Washington were proven too optimistic. Instead, the two leaders played nice, seizing the opportunity to build personal ties, which both leaders value. The timing and journey of Erdoğan’s trip is particularly instructive. Beginning earlier this month, Erdoğan met with President Putin of Russia to discuss outstanding bilateral issues, after which he left to Beijing to meet with President Xi of China to discuss the “One Belt, One Road” initiative and finally flew straight to Washington to meet with President Trump, completing his global tour—his first trip since having narrowly won a controversial referendum in Turkey.