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Just a few weeks ago Donald Trump admiringly called Turkey’s president a “tough cookie.” He inaccurately implied Recep Tayyip Erdogan had to buy a Russian anti-aircraft missile system because the Obama administration wouldn’t sell him an American one.
Now Trump faces a decision which could tell us a lot about future ties between these two key NATO partners: How (or even whether) to sanction Turkey for bringing in the S-400 system, a move the U.S. says could give Moscow access to sensitive information on American fighter jets in the region.
We know a sanctions package has been drawn up. What is actually announced depends on how far Trump’s hard-line aides convince him to push Erdogan. The U.S. is already winding down Turkey’s role in the F-35 program and could just declare the whole thing over. Penalties beyond the defense sector would be a stronger signal.
Trump may tread lightly. The European Union, too. While the EU is freezing high-level contacts and cutting funds to Turkey over its energy exploration in a disputed area of the eastern Mediterranean, it is holding off on targeting Turkish companies drilling offshore.
Erdogan’s regional antics, plus his increasingly authoritarian moves at home, are causing unease in many quarters. But Turkey’s role in NATO can’t be brushed aside. Marc Champion wrote recently about the path Erdogan has chosen. The question is whether there’s appetite to try and modify his behavior.
Provoking Democrats | With his attacks on four female House Democrats, the U.S. president is betting he can stoke his base of die-hard Republican supporters. Trump repeated his call for the lawmakers – all American women of color – to “go back” to countries they “came from,” brushing off criticism his remarks were racist. “A lot of people love it,” he said.
Click here for a look at Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s plans for a House vote on a resolution condemning Trump.
Getting hostile | The EU is weighing possible sweeteners to avoid a chaotic no-deal Brexit. Still, with talks set to resume after Britain gets its new prime minister next week, EU officials described a meeting of chief Brexit negotiators last week as one of the most difficult of the past three years, saying the U.K. appeared to be trying to bully Brussels into concessions.
New threat | Europe is bracing for more tariffs from the U.S., expecting the WTO to give Washington the green light for levies on as much as $7 billion of goods. The new front in the transatlantic spat stems from a 14-year dispute over subsidies to Airbus. EU officials suspect the measures may target cheese, olives and pasta in a bid to win broader concessions on agriculture.
Defense headache | President Vladimir Putin has spent $300 billion on a weapons-buying binge for Russia’s military over the last decade that’s left the defense industry struggling with a massive debt hangover (Russia pays for weapons systems when completed, forcing producers to borrow commercially to cover costs). The industry “is living from hand to mouth,” one official said.
Chorus of criticism | U.S. technology giants are headed for their biggest showdown with Congress in 20 years as lawmakers and regulators seek to know if companies like Google and Facebook use their dominance to crush innovation. Executives are due to appear today before the House antitrust panel, whose Democratic chairman is leading the investigation.
What to Watch
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said he and Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer may travel to Beijing for trade negotiations if talks by phone – likely this week – are productive. U.S. lawmakers are sharply divided on how to deal with the influx of migrants at the southern border, even as the White House announces new rules to restrict asylum claims. Germany’s Ursula von der Leyen faces a vote today on her bid to become European Commission president, having made her final pitch to lawmakers focused on protecting the climate and improving social justice.
And finally … He mocked political opponents with misogynistic and homophobic slurs, openly fantasized about the assassination of the capital’s mayor and heaped ridicule on ordinary Puerto Ricans. Now Governor Ricardo Rossello is under further pressure with thousands choking the streets of San Juan calling for his ouster, casting doubt on his ability to stay in office until next year’s elections.
–With assistance from Anthony Halpin, Ian Wishart, Ben Sills and Alan Crawford.
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