Monday, September 27th, 2021
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There are two developments that have provided a moment of genuine relief to Turkish people in times of unprecedented tensions not only between Ankara and Washington but also between European capitals and the world's sole superpower. That the transatlantic alliance is undergoing a massive transformation in some respects is a fact. It was on Wednesday last that the Turkish lira showed some signs of stability against the US dollar after what the US National Security Adviser John Bolton said about the current status of the US-Turkey relationship during his trip to Israel. The two Nato allies are in a trade war over a variety of disputes, particularly the detention of a US pastor on terrorism charges in Turkey. The Turkish lira has declined 37 percent against the US dollar during this year. The other development is related to top leaders of the European Union who have strongly backed Turkey against the Trump administration's policies. Moreover, the European Parliament has declared the tariffs as illegitimate and urged the US to solve its problems with Turkey with "constructive diplomatic engagement".

Not only does the latter development show the extent of economic interdependence between Europe and Turkey, it also signals the development of a common stance in the face of a nasty dispute between the US and Turkey. Germany, the world's fourth largest economy, in particular, has backed Turkey. Chancellor Angela Merkel is said to have made it clear that "Germany would like to see an economically prosperous Turkey". She has reportedly emphasized that "No one has an interest in the economic destabilisation of Turkey." Markel's remarks therefore highlight the lack of wisdom and prudence that the Trump administration has been showing in a woefully consistent manner. The German society too is equally concerned about the way the US has been treating a Nato ally. Merkel's remarks therefore have led to a national debate in Germany on whether to provide financial assistance to Turkey to mitigate the effects of the crisis on German businesses. Italy is also equally concerned about the contagion from Turkish markets as the shares of European banks with the highest exposure to Turkey fell at an alarming rate. French economy minister Bruno Le Maire has strongly indicated that France and Turkey would work together to take a stance against the US.

Be that as it may, President Trump happens to be the only US President who has described Europe as a "foe"; he has earned the reputation of someone who punishes friends and foes alike. China, which has been experiencing the growing American economic belligerence in recent weeks and months, has, however, taken a highly prudent approach to Trump's world view; it has so far shown ambivalence and carefully calibrated responses to Washington's increasing hostility. But Europe is not China; it has loudly and unambiguously refused to bow before US pressure by reaffirming its commitment to the Iran nuclear deal and threatening to sanction European firms doing business with Iran if they ever abide by US sanctions. Europe's predicament can be gauged from the fact that the US-Turkey dispute has taken place at a time when the EU needs Turkey the most to effectively discourage irregular migration into Europe.

It is good to note that Turkey has received highly valuable support from the EU. But this development must not make Ankara complacent towards seeking a viable solution to its ongoing economic and political tensions with Washington. It may, for example, look into the possibility of releasing the US pastor about whom the US National Security Adviser has said that Turkey is paying a price for not releasing him. By engaging the US in a constructive manner, Turkey will be able to seek the solution of some other issues such as the presence of US nukes on its soil and the fight against ISIS from a position of moral authority and superiority. Turkey is required to take every possible step aimed at protecting and preserving its economic and strategic interests. Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan ought to know that his nationalistic-religious rhetoric will not last long in the face of new economic realities. He has, for example, announced that Turkey will not purchase US goods, including the iPhone, in retaliation to the US tariffs on Turkish goods. Little does he, however, appreciate the fact that Apple's products will automatically go out of Turkish people's reach if the slide of their currency continues on account of US-Turkey trade spat.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2018

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