Why Does Europe Keep the Turkish Viper So Close to Its Breast?

Date: 11/01/2021 Time: 12:10

Barry Shaw μικρή Barry Shaw

Ever since Erdogan moved Turkey away from Ataturk’s secular approach to a forceful Islamic ideology, Turkey has become a spoiler both in the Middle East, North Africa and Europe. And it has succeeded in upsetting more countries than it has helped.

Erdogan has become a target for human and civil rights organizations and even the European Court of Human Rights following his military attacks against the Kurds, his meddling in Cyprus, Syria and Libya, and his home record of torture, murder and imprisonment of political rivals.

His military attacks Turkish Kurds have become vengeful acts not dissimilar to the genocide inflicted on the Armenians by the revolutionary Young Turks who replaced the Ottoman rulers.

Today, there are an estimated 400,000 political prisoners, in including women, in Turkish prisons of false charges of terrorism.

As recently as late December, the European Court of Human Rights charged Turkey for the immediate release of Kurdish politician, Selahattin Demirtas, who was imprisoned in 2014 on terrorism charges after a protest against the regime turned violent. He faces 142 years in prison if found guilty of being the leader of a terrorist group, which would define many thousands of Kurdish Turks who oppose Erdogan’s dangerous policies of being terrorists.

It’s not just Armenians and Kurds who have reason to be fearful of Erdogan’s Turkey.

Turkish Jews live in fear and are afraid to talk publicly about their feelings. A 2015 poll found that over 70% of Turks held anti-Semitic views. Synagogue bombings have taken place in Istanbul in 1986 that killed twenty people and in 2015 in which thirty died and hundreds injured. The latter bombing was executed by a militant Turkish Islamic group.

Turkey is a politically schizophrenic country with one foot on the western banks of the Bosphorus and its other foot in Asia. It came as a shock to Europe and the West when Recep Tayyip Erdogan decided to move his country into his own brand of Islamism.

Many Turks who despise Erdogan blame the Europeans for letting him get away with murder.

Although France, Greece and Cyprus tried to end what they call Turkish provocative conduct in the eastern Mediterranean, they found no solid support from the EU even as Turkey continues to carry out natural gas exploration in areas that Greece claims as its own maritime economic zone.

Europeans have been highly critical of Erdogan for whipping up Muslim hatred in Europe recently. However, the EU remains weak on Erdogan. They need him to keep many thousands of Syrian refugees in Turkey rather than have they flow into Europe. They need these migrants kept out and Erdogan needs the money the EU send him to keep them there.

EU members may propose minor sanctions against Turkey but they are always deferred to future EU council meetings. Kicking the Turkish can down the road allows both sides to maintain the pay and keep policy related to Middle East migrants currently located in Turkey from crossing in great numbers into Europe. Turkey receives 6 billion euros and a vague promise of Turkish membership of the EU and a visa-free entry into EU countries for Turkish citizens many of whom have chosen to stay there rather than return to Turkey.

This is a Damocles sword dangling over the heads of the Europeans, particularly Germany that enjoys large commercial contracts with Turkey. The Europeans are scared that Erdogan may open the gates and allow a flood of millions of Syrian migrants into the EU.

The European worry plays to Erdogan’s strength. There is a lack of will to confront Turkey’s growing debt to European banks. According to Bloomberg’s news website, Spanish bank are exposed to $64 B in Turkish debt. French banks to $24B. German banks $9B. If the EU imposes severe sanctions against Turkey they will, in essence, choke off the possibility of Turkey being able to repay their debt.  The Europeans are caught between a rock and a hard place with regard to Turkey.

One source of income that dried up with Erdogan’s antagonism toward Israel was the well of Israeli tourism. Tens of thousands of Israelis flocked to Turkey until Erdogan turned insultingly against the Jewish States. As a result, Israelis packed their bags and found vacation sunshine and security in Greece and Cyprus.

Israeli memories of the Mavi Marmara incident, in which Turkish and global provocateurs took on the Israeli navy in a premeditated act of violence, remain etched in Israeli memories. Erdogan has since hosted the Hamas terror group in his country, which is looked on as an insult by Mahmoud Abbas and his Palestinian Authority, which is Hamas’s political enemy.

Then we have the fractious nature of the EU with the conflicting problems of individual EU countries. Italy is allied with Turkey in support for the Libyan government which is fighting against rebel leader, General Khalifa Haftar, supported by France, Russia, the UAE, Egypt and Saudi Arabia.

Erdogan is looking nervously across the Atlantic to a Biden Administration after Trump imposed sanctions on Turkey in mid-December, punishing Erdogan for buying Russian S-4000 missile defense systems.

US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, claimed that this system endangers the security of US military technology and personnel while providing substantial funds to the Russian defense sector.

Turkey exports attack helicopters to Pakistan. The problem is that these helicopters need American engines and, if Turkey does not get the export license for the helicopters from America, they can’t deliver them to Pakistan. This may be the reason that Pakistan has recently been sucking up to Israel as a backdoor to Washington in order to get these helicopters.

Pakistan has been making soothing noises in the direction of Israel in recent months as it self-examines its own strategic interests. Perhaps opening avenues to Israel will benefit Pakistan’s ties with Saudi Arabia and the United States and enable its own peace with India. If so, it could send Turkey into anti-Israel isolation.

In the past Biden has called Erdogan a dictator, but who knows what Biden will say once he is the acting US President. His globalist policy makers may make him change his tune.

Erdogan is now embroiled in the Libyan conflict.  Both Morocco and Egypt look at it with concern. Egypt is trying to limit Tukey’s military involvement over its western border.

Turkey’s meddling across the Mediterranean has set off alarm bells in southern Europe. Erdogan has been making threatening noises about the tri-nation natural gas pipeline deal signed between Greece, Cyprus and Israel for the supply of much needed energy into Europe.

Ian Lesser, the vice president of the German Marshall Fund think tank, told CNBC that Turkey’s confrontation with two European countries is “the most dangerous situation we have faced between the two countries in the region for many years.”

Europe had little option but to stand with Greece, Cyprus and Israel for the security of their new source of energy for the coming years.

It is perplexing, from and Israeli point of view, to see Europe keeping the Erdogan viper close to its breast. Surely the time has come for the EU to put Turkey on notice that is must suspend its application for EU membership on hold until Turkey ceases his provocations against European countries and European interests.

Barry Shaw is the International Public Diplomacy Director at the Israel Institute for Strategic Studies.

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