Donald Trump wasn’t bluffing when he vowed to cripple Turkey economically if it attacks Syria’s Kurds, analysts told RT. The move, however, would likely have serious negative repercussions for Washington.
The US president issued the threat amid accusations that his ordered pullout from Syria would endanger US-backed Kurdish militias in northern Syria – fighters which Turkey regards as terrorists. In one of his signature Twitter ultimatums, Trump announced that the United States would “devastate Turkey economically if they hit [the] Kurds.”
The threat comes just days after Turkey said that it was actively preparing for a possible cross-border operation that would target the “terrorist” Kurdish YPG.
Take Trump at his word?
Trump’s incendiary tweets regularly grab headlines – but they’re typically directed at long-time US nemeses such as Iran or North Korea. While the US president hasn’t shied away from threatening the European Union with tariffs, this may be the first time he’s directed such strong language at a NATO ally.
“It is very, very unusual to have the head of the US empire issuing statements like this… where he is threatening a country that is part of NATO,” Anti-war activist Richard Becker told RT. “It is an amazing statement and one that we can’t really imagine having heard from any other president of the United States, particularly put in those terms.”
However brazen, the warning should not be dismissed as idle Twitter banter, former Pentagon official Michael Maloof argued.
The threat is probably really real from a Donald Trump standpoint. In fact, it has been one of his major weapons. He has weaponized the economy through tariffs and sanctions against countries he does not like.
In fact, retaliating economically to any Turkish attack on the Kurds may actually be Washington’s only recourse. As Maloof noted, “If there is an attack on the Kurds I don’t see the United States coming to their defense unless the American troops are integrated in with them.”
Trump may be tweeting in earnest, but he should think twice before endangering relations with Turkey – and the rest of Washington’s military allies – in such a profound way, Becker said.
The idea that new sanctions can be implemented against Turkey and it won’t have any effect in the United States is completely false, both from an economic point of view and the point of view of the military alliance.
Maloof told RT that regardless of what comes next, Trump’s social media threats may have already damaged US relations with Ankara. The US president has to “watch his words because people are getting sick and tired of Trump’s threats, especially economic. This is actually having an adverse effect because it is driving Turkey more away from the West and NATO and pushing Erdogan more towards the East,” he added.
An effective deterrent?
Threatening a NATO ally with economic ruin may be provocative and unprecedented, but there’s also reason to believe that Turkey won’t follow through with an assault on northern Syria.
“I don’t think Turkey is going to launch [an attack]. I think that Erdogan has expressed threats, but I also think he is under serious pressure from Moscow as well as the US not to attack the Kurds,” Maloof predicted.
While Trump’s decision to pull US troops out of Syria has been widely criticized as premature, “The expectation would be that there isn’t going to be a massive Turkish invasion into Syria,” Becker said.
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