Erdogan is impressed with Trump’s handling of the media
On Wednesday President-elect Trump gave a rather remarkable press conference, in which he went toe-to-toe with the media and further succeeded in discrediting them, labeling Buzzfeed as a “pile of garbage” and rebuking CNN’s Jim Acosta as “fake news”. Of course Trump’s supporters were almost in ecstasy at his dressing-down of the hypocritical and smug mainstream media, but another person was also greatly impressed: President Erdoğan of Turkey.
Speaking on Trump’s eventful press conference Erdoğan said the following:1
“During [the] Gezi protests and PKK terror campaigns, the unity and solidarity of [the] Turkish nation were attacked. Those who carried out that game back then in Turkey have done him [Trump] wrong … during the news conference yesterday, and Mr. Trump put the reporter of that [media] group in his place there.”
It should come as no surprise that Erdoğan was impressed by Trump’s ‘performance’ against his media foes, as Erdoğan himself is quite fond of putting his own opposition in their place. For instance speaking of those who are against implementing a new ‘Presidential’ system in Turkey, Erdoğan responded “In this country, there is no longer anybody who will believe such a deception. Everyone will know their place and respect the ballot box and the nation’s will.”2 Another example is when Erdoğan told Haider al-Abadi, the Prime Minister of Iraq “You are not of my quality or at my level; know your place.”3
Erdoğan’s praise of Trump should also be seen in the context of a statement made by the latter’s candidate for US Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson. During his confirmation hearing, Tillerson answered a question on Turkey:4
“This is a long-standing NATO ally that in the absence of American leadership, got pretty nervous about [its] situation and turned to who was next available. … He [Erdogan] turned to an ally in Russia that is not a sustainable ally. Your sustainable alliance is with the United States of America.”
The statements made by Erdoğan and Tillerson, and prior ones made by the Trump administration5, all suggest that in the short-term Turkish-US relations are likely to improve. Or at the very least the Trump administration will be intent on improving relations with Turkey and Erdoğan will be open to such efforts. Yet as relations evolve between the new administration and Turkey, problems are bound to arise. Most importantly: How will Trump’s pursuit of American interests in the Middle East dovetail with Erdogan’s desire to establish a new Ottoman Empire?