Germany’s maneuvering endangers European security policy
The economically strongest country, which often gives the impression of being the dominant force in the EU together with France, forgets its responsibility in the field of security policy. Traditionally, especially after the Second World War, but also after the fall of the Wall, German foreign policy has had the role of mediator. And Germany enjoys a good reputation and political weight – not only in Europe, but throughout the world. At the same time, Berlin often forgets the fact that it is itself part of a union that must present a strong image to the outside world. Germany’s “policy of neutrality” and constant maneuvering can, however, be fatal for itself in particular. When referred to the Mediterranean conflict, it can even endanger pan-European security in the long term.
While France – partly out of its own interests – recognizes the importance of an active and rapid approach to Turkish ambitions in the Aegean, Germany is practicing a masterful appeasement policy. Turkish foreign policy knows how to take advantage of German self-restraint and European disunity and is playing high stakes in the Mediterranean region and the Middle East. A high-risk game that could backfire again, especially considering that Turkey has increasingly isolated itself in its neighborhood. Caught up in the fake neutrality policy and the attempt to save a refugee deal, Germany forgets that Turkey is occupying part of an EU country and is in open confrontation with Greece and Cyprus.
German-Turkish partnership of convenience at the expense of European stability
But the German appeasement policy toward Turkey is not a new phenomenon in world politics. It has a history and, above all, a tradition that goes back a hundred years. Already during World War I, the Ottoman Empire was considered one of the most important allies of the German Empire. Today it is seen as proven that the German generals, knowing about the events of the genocide, tolerated these cruelties. At the cost of the extermination of the Christian minorities in the Ottoman Empire, Germany at the time purchased a partnership of convenience. Even 100 years after the genocide, the Chancellor – unlike the parliament – was not prepared to utter the word of genocide because Turkey is an important partner for Germany.
The unpredictability of the Turkish leadership and how they deal with the refugees shows the true dimension of a deal that is on very thin ice.
After all, Turkey is not only a NATO partner, but German soldiers are also based in Turkey. An escalation between Germany and Turkey could result in the expulsion of German soldiers. While Germany is used to taking a more offensive stance towards other states – including Russia and China – Berlin is practicing toleration tactics with regard to Ankara. The second reason why Turkey is an important partner is the so-called refugee deal – a short-term solution that requires long-term vision. The unpredictability of the Turkish leadership and how they deal with the refugees shows the true dimension of a deal that is on very thin ice. Last but not least one should not forget the fact that there is a large Turkish community in Germany. Of those who voted in the Turkish elections, the majority sympathized with Erdogan. A strong presence of the grey wolves, dubious associations serve thereby as a kind fifth column for Erdogan. If the autocrat on the Bosporus constantly gets what he wants, it could become a routine.
Berlin’s appeasement could backfire: Ankara’s blackmailing becomes routine
Turkey’s open threats of war towards an EU country are no trivial matter and no minor incident. And not since yesterday. For years the Turkish economy and domestic politics have been weakening. In order to divert attention from this, to unite the nationalists behind itself and to solve the resource question, Turkey has not shied away from escalations in its immediate neighborhood for years. Making a claim to foreign territory, violating air and sea space on a daily basis, should not be dismissed as unimportant. Although comparisons with the period before World War II are usually not welcome, there is at least one strong parallel: While a state proclaims the right-wing extremist rhetoric of some marginalized social groups to the official foreign policy, many European countries are still watching. At a time when Turkey is confronted with an anti-Turkish alliance in the Mediterranean region (Greece, Cyprus, Egypt, France and partly Israel) on the one hand as well as tensions in the Middle East (Syria, Iran and Iraq) on the other hand, a window of opportunity arises. A window of opportunity to put Turkey’s blackmail policy in its place, both domestically and abroad.
Germany’s passivity makes the EU an unreliable player and, above all, a divided one on this issue. The EU needs a stronger German foreign policy. A foreign policy that is based on a long-term perspective and does not try to save already failed projects in the short term. A more courageous German foreign policy could not only put an end to Turkey’s ambitions for a greater Turkey, but also bring other in disagreed countries in the EU on board. A positive domino effect, which would result in the extensive isolation of Turkey and the support of the EU states Greece and Cyprus. Something that the French partner has been practicing openly for years. Whether out of its own interest or not, France, together with a number of other European states such as Austria, is today the consistent pillar of an active European foreign policy. An active foreign policy that on the one hand is concerned with supporting its own partner Greece on a military level, while at the same time providing a counterbalance to Turkey in the Mediterranean region.
French-Austrian role model for Germany
That the conflict has not already flared up into a large-scale military conflict is due in large part to the French presence. In contrast to Germany, the French have often stood on the opposite side of Turkey in history, and even a hundred years ago they not only witnessed the genocide, but actively intervened in favor of Christian minorities. The French know only too well what a Turkish nationalist foreign policy can mean for the region. If the EU wants to consolidate itself as an equal player in the long term, it must cooperate more and better on the important security policy issues. German and Hungarian crossfire and pushed-up appeasement policy are hardly helpful in this regard. Two decades of Turkish foreign policy under President Erdogan should be enough to see that appeasement policy does not work and can have fatal consequences.
Two decades of Turkish foreign policy under President Erdogan should be enough to see that appeasement policy does not work and can have fatal consequences.
Along with France, medium-sized Austria has for years been a model of what real European solidarity looks like in terms of security policy: Namely the fight against any Turkish nationalist presence at home and the complete support for the Union member Greece. This has already brought Austria into several open confrontations and verbal disputes between Vienna and Ankara. The lesser evil, which is quasi necessary to avoid the greater. Berlin can and should still learn a lot from Germany’s neighboring countries Austria and France.