Belmont Club

Stand By Me

Turkey’s Recep Erdogan made the newbie’s mistake of Foreign Policy. He trusted the Obama administration. Turkey is in trouble with Russia.

By forcing down an airliner flying from Moscow, and publicly accusing Russia of ferrying military equipment to Damascus, Turkey’s Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan has taken what may prove to be the biggest gamble yet in his Syria policy.

The incident risks damaging a carefully nurtured relationship with an irascible Russian superpower at a time when Ankara needs all the friends it can get….

“Because the grounding of the plane was done in such a public manner, Putin will see this as a direct challenge,” he said of the Russian president.

Russia provides nearly two-thirds of Turkey’s gas supplies and often ramps up its exports to the country during frequent cuts in Iranian gas supplies in the winter. Russia is also set to help build Turkey’s first nuclear power plant.

Russia also plans to build its 63 billion cubic meter South Stream pipeline through Turkey’s waters to feed Europe. The plan raises Turkey’s profile as a partner in the project and gives both countries incentives to maintain friendship.

But it has America’s support. Right? Right?

Lee Smith thinks about what support Turkey has gotten so far from the Obama Administration.

the administration’s blandishments and encouragements, and later its reproaches and betrayals, have pushed Turkey out on a ledge, apparently alone. If some are gloating that a boastful Erdogan is finally getting his comeuppance with his troubles on the Syrian border, the fact is that the administration has let an ally, albeit a troublesome one, expose its weaknesses, a posture dangerous both to itself and American interests….

When the uprising against Assad erupted, the White House tasked its Syria policy out to Erdogan, who had only recently described the Syrian president as a friend. However, Erdogan’s entreaties proved ineffective, largely because the soft power that he thought he exercised over Syria, especially regarding trade, was negligible.

Here again the Obama administration had miscalculated on Turkey, overestimating Erdogan, or taking his bluster at face value, and handing off a sensitive job to an easily excitable ally. When Erdogan backed himself into a corner, the White House let him languish there alone. After the Turkish prime minister had called for Assad to step down, Ankara approached the administration with several “forward-leaning” options, including creation of “a buffer zone and/or a humanitarian corridor, as well as organizing and equipping the Free Syrian Army.” According to reports, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton rebuffed Ankara’s top diplomat, Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, telling him, “we are not there yet.” Instead, the administration sided with Russia, which proposed a political solution to the crisis that was only intended to ensure the survival of the Assad regime.

“We are not there yet” is something Hillary says a lot of. Today the Associated Press reported that there was “still no clear picture of Benghazi”.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton says the precise details of the deadly Sept. 11 attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya are still unclear. But she says the Obama administration is committed to uncovering the truth.

One month after the attack that killed the U.S. ambassador to Libya and three other Americans, Clinton said Friday that there is still “much” the administration doesn’t know about what happened. Clinton said no one in the administration was motivated by anything other than determining the facts of the case.

Besides it is a case of ‘prove to me that reinforcements would have saved the consulate’ ” The administration says there is no evidence that more security would have thwarted the attack.” Yes “we are not there yet.” We’ll get back to you. Don’t call us we’ll call you. The check is in the mail.

Smith continues:

The administration also took sides against Turkey in June, after a Turkish plane was shot down and Ankara charged that the Syrians had fired on the jet without warning in international airspace. The Syrians claimed that the plane was inside Syrian airspace, brought down by anti-aircraft gunfire. The account that U.S. officials gave to reporters, backed the Syrian story. It seems, however, that Turkey’s narrative was accurate. According to news reports and recently leaked Syrian government documents, the plane was downed by a Russian-made heat-seeking missile, an attack allegedly ordered by the Russians that may have been conducted by Russian technicians. Russian intelligence also may have directed the execution of the two Turkish pilots …
In a NATO meeting last week convened under article 4 of the NATO treaty, “asserting the integrity of the 28 members,” the alliance condemned the Syrian shelling across the Turkish border that killed 5 people. But should the exchange escalate, if Syrian artillery were to hit a schoolhouse full of children, what then? It is unlikely that the Obama administration will at this point, or perhaps ever, come to Turkey’s aid should it get entangled in a conflict that is partly of the administration’s own making.

The issue here is not simply that White House has failed to pursue American interests and assist U.S. allies in letting the Syrian conflict run now for more than a year and a half with a death toll closing in on 30,000. Rather it is a picture of a foreign policy without principle or prudence. The White House sided with Turkey against Israel, but for what purpose—in order to side with Assad against Erdogan? In failing to manage a useful, if difficult ally, the White House has helped make it vulnerable to its adversaries and ours.

“The White House sided with Turkey against Israel, but for what purpose—in order to side with Assad against Erdogan?”

That sentence captures the entire problem with the administration’s foreign policy. Their offense wasn’t simply the betrayal of Libyans, Iraqis, Afghans, Turks and sundry other nationalities who risked their lives by throwing in with America, though that would be bad enough. It was their betrayal for nothing; for selling them out sans purpose; for committing treachery without hope of gain.

But perhaps Smith should look for motives on a smaller scale. Not on the balance of grand geopolitics but on the level of talk shows. The sellout was always for something: for talking points; for political ads; for laugh lines at the next fundraiser. They didn’t waffle for nothing, just for very little. Smith’s problem is that he’s looking for reasons in dollars in minds that only run up to cents.


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