U.S. President Donald Trump, before leaving the White House last week for California, to examine the consequences of the wild fires there, answered questions from some Washington correspondents. When they asked about the United States' current communications and relationship with Turkey regarding issues ranging from the Jamal Khashoggi killing to Fetullah Gülen, President Trump unexpectedly started praising President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, and, more surprisingly, expressed that Erdoğan is one of his beloved friends.
"I think now we're as close as we've ever been," Trump said, confusing all the political experts and journalists closely following the ongoing tensions between the two countries. There is no doubt that Trump's "warm expression" was because of the resolution to the crisis over the evangelical pastor Andrew Brunson.
President Trump's words could be seen at first as more than positive, yet it was apparent that his administration wouldn't take any tangible steps in order to solve the problems between the countries, such as the extradition of Gülen and his henchmen or the U.S.' arms supply to the PKK terrorist group's Syrian offshoots in the region, and so they didn't amount to much.
The "strategic alliance" between Turkey and the United States is transforming into a different type of relationship in parallel with the world system that is entering a new era. In such a period of time where the bloc politics belonging to the Cold War era are over, the United States, which still sees itself as the gendarmerie of the world, is damaging its influence and image in the international community.
Therefore, besides the discrepancy with Turkey on non-state groups in Syria, namely the Democratic Union Party (PYD) and its armed People's Protection Units (YPG) militia – currently one of the biggest problems on the ground between the two parties – there are many other obstacles to solve before bilateral relations are completely restored. First and foremost, the U.S. is sheltering Turkey's most wanted terrorist cult leader, Fetullah Gülen, the perpetrator of the July 15 coup attempt and many other secretive assassinations and operations in Turkey, in a giant mansion located in Saylorsburg, in rural Pennsylvania. This alone is enough to harm the Turkish-U.S. partnership.
In a nutshell, the Trump administration needs to be aware of where world politics and diplomacy are heading and to adjust its policies according to the new dynamics. Unless it adapts to the new world order, where not only super powers but also the regional actors are of utmost importance, the U.S. will lose its effective power and influence. Washington's impaired alliance with Ankara is directly linked with the U.S.' failure to follow its past campaign and politics in the new world and depends solely on the U.S.' next moves. As long as the Trump administration fails to generate foreign or diplomatic policies based on de facto situations and balances as they exist, it will be impossible for the U.S. to salvage its reputation and its ties with Turkey.