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Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

Turkey’s currency plunged to new depths today amid a standoff that has Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan accusing the U.S. of sabotaging an ally.

Why it matters: Turkey was already bracing for economic turbulence, but President Trump’s decision to apply sanctions over the detention of American pastor Andrew Brunson has accelerated the crisis, and provided Erdogan with a scapegoat. The dispute could also exacerbate another trend: Turkey’s drift away from the West.

Catch up quick…

  • Erdogan — beginning a fresh term after 15 years in power — has been pulling Turkey in an increasingly authoritarian direction, particularly after surviving a coup attempt in 2016. Thousands were arrested in the wake of the failed coup, including Brunson, who was charged with links to terrorism, an accusation the U.S. says is baseless.
  • Trump sanctioned Turkey’s justice and interior ministers on August 1 over Brunson’s detention and followed up last Friday by announcing the doubling of steel and aluminum tariffs on Turkey.
  • Turkey’s already sliding currency has lost more than 40% of its value against the dollar this year, and 22% as tensions have ratcheted up over the past week. Erdogan is blaming an “economic war” against Turkey. Investors cite economic mismanagement from his government.

The bigger picture...

A Turkey-U.S. split is “not the intention of either side,” says Ozgur Unluhisarcikli, director of the German Marshall Fund’s Ankara office, “but events could lead Turkey there,” particularly because Trump and Erdogan both “seem to care more about their own political power” than their alliances.

  • Unluhisarcikli says public and elite opinion in Turkey has been turning against the U.S. under the Trump administration, and the situation surrounding Brunson’s detention could escalate further because “Trump has denied Erdogan any honorable way out of this."

What to watch...

  • “While the sanctions might cripple Turkey’s economy, they are unlikely to pose a threat to Erdogan’s power,” Soner Cagaptay of the Washington Institute writes for Axios Expert Voices. “In fact, his base is likely to band around him even tighter.”
  • “It is actually Russia that stands most to gain from a weakened Turkey,” Adham Sahloul of Tufts’ Fletcher School writes for Expert Voices. Despite the amicable diplomatic and military coordination between Erdogan and Putin in Syria, Russia views Turkey as a geopolitical threat in Eurasia."
  • “Amid signs of emerging market contagion, the South African rand briefly fell as much as 10% to a two-year low on Monday morning. ... The Indian rupee slipped 1.1%, while the Indonesian rupiah lost 1%,” per the Financial Times.

Go deeper

1 hour ago - World

Iran rejects nuclear talks with U.S., for now

Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif at Iran/EU talks in 2015. Photo: Carlos Barria/POOL/AFP via Getty

A spokesman for Iran’s Foreign Ministry said on Sunday that conditions are not ripe for informal nuclear talks between Iran, the U.S. and other world powers.

Why it matters: The Biden administration had proposed the talks as part of its efforts to negotiate a path back to the 2015 nuclear deal. The White House expressed disappointment with Iran's response, but said it remained willing to engage with Tehran.

1 hour ago - Health

U.S. sets weekend records for daily COVID vaccinations

A driver waits to receive the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine in Inglewood, California on Feb. 26. Photo: Eric Thayer/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Just over 2.4 million coronavirus vaccinations were reported to the CDC on Sunday, matching Saturday's record-high for inoculations as seen in Bloomberg's vaccine tracker.

Why it matters: Vaccinations are ramping up again after widespread delays caused by historic winter storms. Over 75 million vaccine doses have been administered thus far, with 7.5% of the population fully vaccinated and 15% having received at least one dose.

GOP Sen. Bill Cassidy: "We will lose" if we continue to idolize Trump

Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) told CNN's "State of the Union" Sunday he does not believe that former President Trump will, or should, be the Republican nominee for president in 2024.

What he's saying: Cassidy pointed out that "over the last four years, [Republicans] lost the House of Representatives, the Senate and the presidency. That has not happened ... since Herbert Hoover."