"I don't care about anything having to do with anything other than the country," U.S. President-elect Donald Trump told The New York Times in an interview. " I don't want to influence anything, because it's not that, it's not that important to me. It's hard to explain."
If you set aside the fact that Trump was talking about his possible conflict of interest due to his investments in various countries as a businessman, this statement gives us a clear picture of what to expect from the Trump administration when it comes to foreign policy.
He is against nation-building, he is more inclined to closely work with allies and partners against terrorism. He would like to preserve some sort of international order without meddling in domestic politics.
"We know what would have happened with a Hillary Clinton administration. It would have been a continuation of Barack Obama's policies. But there is now a chance to build something new," a high ranking Turkish official told me.
Trump has already created a national security team that includes bold names such as retired Gen. Mike Flynn and Congressman Mike Pompeo. Both of them had negative views on President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Turkish foreign policy in the past. For example, Flynn applauded the failed coup last July, wrongly believing that the "secular" Turkish military was taking over the country from the "Islamist" Erdoğan. It did not take a long time for him to come to his senses that it was not true.
Then we have Trump's pick for the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) post, Rep. Pompeo. He described the leader of NATO-ally Turkey as a totalitarian Islamist dictator in his tweet following the coup attempt. Pompeo is also a member of the U.S.-Turkey Caucus. He decided to be part of the group earlier this year following a visit by some Turkish community leaders. Sources said he said he was supporting Turkey as a NATO ally in the region but was very unhappy with the Turkish government's policies, possibly about Turkish influence over the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas.
Flynn's Islamophobic comments scared some Turkish analysts but his quick change of heart on the failed coup and Pompeo's pragmatism provided some sort of hope.
James Jeffrey, former U.S. ambassador to Turkey between 2008-2010, says that Flynn and Pompeo quickly realized that the coup was not the kind that they were expecting, the putschists were Islamic, rather than secular and the people were behind the government. "I think that [the Trump] administration and these individuals would be judged by how they respond to Turkey's interest right now, rather than what they said at one point early on, because the list of people across the U.S. government who said stupid things on and around July 15 is so long that we would have no relationship if Erdoğan and Turkey focus on it," Jeffrey said at a panel this week hosted by SETA DC in Washington.
Jeffrey also expects that the Trump administration will not get involved in Turkey's domestic politics, including the Kurdish question unless it threatens a civil war in the country and thus de-stabilize the entire region.
One thing is certain though, the pressure from U.S. media and NGOs on Turkey over internal affairs or allegations of rights abuses will not create the same impact in a Trump administration. Personally, I don't expect a great deal of slamming by the State Department or the White House in this regard. For sure, this will disappoint a lot of activist journalists.
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