Turkey and the United States, both key NATO allies, find themselves at a crossroads. In recent days, Washington put additional strains on a troubled yet valuable relationship by publicly threatening the Turkish government, imposing sanctions on two members of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's Cabinet and passing legislation to block the sale of F-35 fighter jets to Turkey. Provided that the two countries have no choice but to overcome this artificial crisis to protect their own interests, it is key that they rely on diplomacy and promote a stronger partnership rather than destruction.
Although Vice President Mike Pence fired the first salvo by trying to capitalize on the house arrest of an American pastor on terror and espionage charges in Turkey, he faces resistance from the foreign policy and national security establishment. The State Department, including Secretary Mike Pompeo, does not see eye to eye with Pence. Nor do senior Pentagon officials or Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis support the vice president's self-proclaimed crusade.
To be clear, we understand and feel for Pence, whose role has been limited to attending funerals, cutting ribbons and kissing babies. Either way, that's the job. Fueling an unnecessary crisis was the vice president's way of protesting his exclusion from decision-making processes. But he needs to stop forcing his marginal religious beliefs down President Trump's throat. Pence has a right to observe his religion as an evangelical Christian, but Donald Trump took office to be the president of all Americans.
The American people voted for Trump to lead, not Pence. They voted for him to lead not follow. Since taking office, the U.S. president appeared as if he did not have any ideas of his own and was following those around him. He followed the Pentagon's lead in backing armed support to the Syrian wing of the PKK, which is recognized as a terrorist group by the U.S. and EU. Then Pence talked him into ruining ties with a close NATO ally over a suspicious pastor.
It is about time Trump took charge and started doing the things he promised to do for the American electorate. What President Trump will do now will determine his legacy: Will future generations remember him as a great president who protected U.S. interests around the world? Or will he go down in history as a placeholder who followed the advice of the last person he talked to?
If he wants to distinguish himself, President Trump must start taking steps to remind members of his administration that the American people voted for him and his ideas – not for Pence, nor any other Cabinet member. Currently he heads an administration that arms the terrorist People's Protection Units (YPG) in Syria while protecting the head of the Gülenist Terror Group (FETÖ). We, as Daily Sabah, do not want to believe that the president of the U.S. is aiding and abetting a group of terrorists and a coup plotter.
The Trump administration crossed a line by sanctioning two senior Turkish officials but it would appear that the Turkish government, as an ally, is willing to allow Washington to make amends. If not, the U.S. will lose much more than Turkey. Trump may succeed in his desire to destroy the post-World War II order, only for it to collapse on the U.S. itself.
The United States cannot achieve foreign policy goals without Turkish support. To be clear, shutting the door on the Turks will not only ensure that America retreats from the region, it will also raise questions about Washington's reliability by its allies all around the world.
Make no mistake. Relations between two NATO allies with decades of close cooperation behind them cannot go their separate ways so easily. The current crisis between Turkey and the U.S. is artificial, caused by populism running amok in the U.S. Trump, instead of dreaming of the photo op of him welcoming the pastor on the tarmac in Washington, D.C., should act like a statesman and engage Ankara to resolve the current set of disagreements. As long as there is a will, there is a way. Friendship, rather than hostility, must prevail.