Trump Jeopardizes Alliance With Turkey Over Pastor Brunson’s Detention

President Erdogan
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According to Bloomberg, President Trump has jeopardized the United States’ alliance with Turkey by doubling the tariffs he already imposed on Turkish steel and aluminum imports in an effort to punish Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan for detaining American Pastor Andrew Brunson, who allegedly participated in a failed coup.

After Trump doubled his tariffs on Turkish metals on Friday, Erdogan proclaimed that his country will surely prevail without the help or influence of the United States, despite Turkey’s current economic collapse. In an op-ed published in The New York Times on Friday, Erdogan noted that Turkey will take care of itself “if the United States refuses to listen.”

“Before it is too late,” Erdogan wrote, “Washington must give up the misguided notion that our relationship can be asymmetrical and come to terms with the fact that Turkey has alternatives.”

“Failure to reverse this trend of unilateralism and disrespect,” he added, “will require us to start looking for new friends and allies.”

Erdogan’s threat to sever ties with the United States has raised many questions and sparked a debate with the Trump administration. While some are worried that making an enemy out of Turkey will only result in grave consequences, others seem to have no qualms about walking away from America’s alliance with the nation.

According to Jacob Funk Kirkegaard, a senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics, “The administration seems to be willing to accept a scenario in which Turkey — as the economic crisis escalates and the nationalist rhetoric we’ve heard come out of Erdogan escalates — that Turkey is no longer a strategic ally.”

Meanwhile, Atlantic Council Middle East expert, Aaron Stein, claims Erdogan might have made an error in overestimating his importance to President Trump, adding that if Turkey denied the United States access to the Incirlik military base, with which the U.S. has strategic interests, such a move would invoke the wrath of NATO allies.

Tensions between Turkey and the United States have been high in recent weeks due in part to North Carolina Pastor Andrew Brunson’s arrest and detention in the country. After allegedly participating in a failed coup in 2016, Brunson is facing espionage and terrorism charges. Although Trump has requested and later insisted upon Brunson’s release, Erdogan has yet to budge.

Other issues, however, like Turkey’s interest in buying a Russian-made air defense system, have been fueling the tension between the two nations for years. The managing director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, Michael Singh, reported that, “Although Pastor Brunson’s case is the most visible of bilateral irritants at the moment, tensions in the US-Turkey relationship are manifold and have been accumulating for years.”

“Turkey’s greatest value to the U.S. is not economic but strategic,” Singh continued. “It is not only a NATO ally, but it occupies a vital geographic position. Without Turkish cooperation, U.S. goals in Syria, Iran, Russia, and even Europe become more difficult.”