Stories by Marc Pierini

Expert Voices

Trump threat likely to alienate Turkey, weaken U.S. leverage in Syria

Russian President Vladimir Putin pose for a photo with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani prior to their talks at Black Sea resort state residence
Russian President Vladimir Putin with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani. Photo: Mikhail Svetlov via Getty Images

President Trump redefined his Syria policy in a volley of tweets Sunday, threatening to "devastate Turkey economically" if it attacks Kurds in Syria. At issue is Ankara’s longstanding objection to the U.S. alliance with the Syrian Kurdish forces (YPG), who have proven to be Washington's most reliable and efficient allies in Syria’s northeast in the fight against ISIS.

Why it matters: Trump's proclamation marks another troubling development in the souring U.S.–Turkey relationship, one that may further fuel anti-American sentiments in Turkey. 

Expert Voices

The autocratic origins of Turkey's economic crisis

People walk in the street past a currency exchange office on August 13, 2018 in Istanbul, Turkey.
People walk past a currency exchange office on August 13, 2018, in Istanbul, Turkey, where the lira hit another record low overnight. Photo: Chris McGrath via Getty Images

Details about the U.S–Turkey crisis have been unfolding over the past few days: a pastor as stage hostage, frozen assets for ministers on both sides, tariffs on Turkish exports of aluminum and steel to the U.S., a Trump tweet here, a fiery Erdogan speech there. But this is only the spectacular side of the story.

The big picture: The troubles of the Turkish lira have deep roots. Turkey is a structural-deficit country: It needs both short-term money on a daily basis and foreign direct investment in the long run. While the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) initially managed these fundamentals fairly well after it came to power in late 2002, doing so has become incompatible with President Erdogan's autocratic governance.

Expert Voices

What Turkey’s high-stakes elections mean for the West

Muharrem Ince addresses Turkey's main opposition Republican People's Party meeting on May 4, 2018 , in Ankara after being named as its candidate to challenge Erdogan.
Muharrem İnce addresses a Republican People's Party meeting on May 4, 2018, in Ankara after being named the party's candidate to challenge President Erdoğan. Photo: Adem Altan/AFP via Getty Images

Turkey is slated to hold presidential and parliamentary elections on June 24. The current leadership has moved the vote forward by 16 months in the hopes of avoiding fallout from a badly deteriorating economy.

Why it matters: For Erdoğan, the combined elections are a matter of political survival after more than 15 years in power. For the opposition, they represent the first serious opportunity to send the incumbent president into retirement. For the citizens of Turkey, this boils down to a choice between a one-man-rule system with no checks and balances and a possible return to a more liberal and parliamentary system of governance.

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