In an interview with Turkish newspaper Hürriyet on Nov. 9, Vice President-elect Mike Pence said that he will bring U.S. relations with Turkey to a better position, “just like in the old days.”
Pence called Turkey the United States’ “most important ally in the region,” adding that he will work to “further enhance relations.”
Relations with Turkey have been at an all-time low under the Obama Administration, with Obama himself, as well as Secretary of State John Kerry criticizing Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s growing authoritarian grip on aspects of Turkish society, including the media.
Ankara— like many world capitals, were watching the elections closely and were concerned with the potential of a Hillary Clinton victory, citing on numerous occasions her “leanings” towards Greece and her relations with the Ecumenical Patriarch, whom she visited when she was Secretary of State.
“Ankara was mortified at the possibility of a Clinton Presidency,” said Terhan Saroglu in Istanbul, an observer of Greek-Turkish-United States relations whose father is Greek and mother is Turkish.
“Clinton was largely perceived as being pro-Greek here in Turkey. She defied presidential requests not to visit (and legitimize) the Ecumenical Patriarch as a Secretary of State and most Turks always believed her to be pro-Greek,” Saroglu told The Pappas Post in a Skype interview from his office in Istanbul.
Ankara was also concerned, according to the Hürriyet, with the possibility of a Clinton Presidency, given her open support of Kurdish groups in Syria that were fighting ISIS. In Clinton’s foreign policy papers she backed arming the Syrian Kurds with the “equipment they needed” to fight ISIS— a move Ankara has vehemently opposed.
Other indications, as well as comments from Donald Trump himself as a candidate, point to a Trump Administration that might have closer ties to Turkey.
Trump campaign advisor Lt. Gen. Michael T. Flynn wrote in The Hill that “It is time we take a fresh look at the importance of Turkey and place our priorities in proper perspective,” adding that “We need to adjust our foreign policy to recognize Turkey as a priority. We need to see the world from Turkey’s perspective.”
In a New York Times interview after the Republican National Convention, candidate Trump had “nothing but praise” for Turkish president Erdogan and didn’t question his decision to jail upwards of a hundred thousand political opponents in what was called one of the biggest political purges in modern history.
Instead, Trump said that problems in the United States meant that Washington shouldn’t be dictating its position on civil liberties to the world.
“I think right now when it comes to civil liberties, our country has a lot of problems, and I think it’s very hard for us to get involved in other countries when we don’t know what we are doing and we can’t see straight in our own country. We have tremendous problems when you have policemen being shot in the streets, when you have riots, when you have Ferguson. When you have Baltimore. When you have all of the things that are happening in this country — we have other problems, and I think we have to focus on those problems. When the world looks at how bad the United States is, and then we go and talk about civil liberties, I don’t think we’re a very good messenger,” Trump said to The New York Times.