Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump said Wednesday he was not especially concerned with Turkish President Recep Erdogan’s recent crackdown on 50,000 civil society members, and that he may not honor America’s NATO treaty obligations if Russia were to attack the Baltic states unprovoked.
“I give great credit to [Erdogan] for being able to turn that around,” Trump told The New York Times in an interview, praising Erdogan’s crackdown in response to an attempted military coup last week.
The EU, U.S., and NATO have all urged Erdogan to respect democratic values in Turkey as he consistently moves closer to an authoritarian regime. But Trump told TheNYT the U.S. can’t “lecture” Turkey, because “when the world sees how bad the United States is and we start talking about civil liberties, I don’t think we are a very good messenger.”
Turkey has been a recalcitrant partner with the U.S. in the fight against ISIS. The U.S. relies heavily on Kurdish militias inside Syria to fight ISIS, whom Turkey regard as terrorists. When The New York Times asked Trump how we would finesse this intractable obstacle to U.S. strategy he replied “meetings.”
Trump’s embrace of Russian President Vladimir Putin has been well chronicled throughout the presidential campaign. When asked how he would respond if Russia attacked NATO allies in the Baltic states unprovoked, Trump said he would have to think about whether those countries “have fulfilled their obligations to us.” Trump clarified, “If they fulfill their obligations to us, the answer is yes.”
Trump couches his foreign policy in a term he calls ‘America First.’ The slogan has roots in the isolationist movement of the 1920’s during which Charles Lindbergh and others used as a rallying cry to keep the U.S. from destroying Nazi Germany. Trump insists of his slogan, “I never related it to the past,” and that the U.S. must take care of itself “before we worry about everyone else in the world.”
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