Last week the president sent a letter to Erdogan, and today it was made public by way of a Fox Business channel host. The White House has confirmed it is genuine:
EXCLUSIVE: I have obtained a copy of @realDonaldTrump’s letter to #Erdogan. @POTUS warns him to not “be a tough guy! Don’t be a fool!” Says he could destroy Turkey’s economy if #Syria is not resolved in a humane way. Details tonight at 8pm #TrishRegan #FoxBusiness pic.twitter.com/9BoSGlbRyt
— Trish Regan (@trish_regan) October 16, 2019
The letter is dated from one week ago, so Erdogan presumably saw it several days ago and ignored it. Trump’s threats to destroy the Turkish economy are no less deranged when he delivers them in a formal letter than when he sends them in a tweet. The president has found a way to take the worst possible position so that everyone is alienated and insulted at the same time. The letter illustrates as well as anything we have seen over the last two and a half years how little the president understands about international relations and diplomacy. It shows a president hopelessly out of his depth. Brad Simpson comments on the absurd language of the letter:
I am a historian of US foreign policy. I have read many, many letters from US Presidents to foreign leaders, and I have never read a letter from the US President so unhinged, so threatening, so bizarre, so completely lacking in basic etiquette. Trump is deeply, deeply unwell. https://t.co/XOOo2689sI
— Brad Simpson (@bradleyrsimpson) October 16, 2019
Trump is anxious to show that he wasn’t simply caving to Turkey, so he threatens to wreck their economy, but at the same time he effectively approved the Turkish invasion that he is now desperate to denounce. His tone somehow manages to be bullying and desperate at the same time. He makes promises that Turkey will gain concessions that he can’t possibly guarantee, and then warns that Erdogan will be seen as “the devil” if he doesn’t comply with Trump’s demands. In what universe would a message like this produce a favorable response? I can imagine Erdogan laughing at this letter, and I can imagine him cursing at it, but I don’t see how he is supposed to take it seriously.
The president’s erratic and impulsive behavior makes it practically impossible for any government to know where they stand with him at any given moment. No government’s foreign policy can be successful when it is decided by the whims of one man, especially when the man is as inconstant and unhinged as the president is.