A German-Turkish revolution
Rapprochement is in the air. I think this newly developing partnership is inevitable. Why? It is almost like that 1969 hit by Thunderclap Newman, the old British rock band:
Call out the instigators
Because there’s something in the air
We’ve got to get together sooner or later
Because the revolution’s here
When I look at Germany and Turkey, I see two trading nations, and a trading nation knows two things. First, in most parts of the world, especially in the Middle East, you need to be on good terms with other capitals to develop commercial relations with their countries. Second, anything that makes trade harder is bad, including anything that destabilizes your trading partner.
It is now becoming obvious that Trump’s gangster style of doing business is not good for any trading nation, China the chief among them. I do not know what it is like in real estate, but in geopolitics, “you ripped us off for years, now it is time for payback” does not appear to be a good starting point for negotiations.
Have a look at the shared regional agenda of Turkey and Germany. In Idlib, Russian President Vladimir Putin may like to see a new wave of refugees toward Turkey, destabilizing both Turkey and the European Union. But this is not what German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan want. In Iran, United States President Donald Trump may like to end the nuclear deal with Iran to further destabilize the country. Merkel and Erdoğan would prefer for the Iran deal to stay strong.
Note that it is not only the style and policy priorities of Trump that is bringing Germany and Turkey together. A deeper, more structural revolution is underway. The new technological revolution is heralding a non-carbon based growth for us all, which means structurally lower oil prices in the medium term. That is the end of the business plans of many oil exporters: Russia, Saudi Arabia, Iran and all command economies with dubious medium-term prospects.
At this stage, the Middle East needs no more trenches but more transformative diplomacy. That is where the German-Turkish realignment is most important. So if you take a long view of this relationship, it is not transactional, but structural. It is about enduring interests, which means it will be about values.
Let me also underline the two practical reasons that have made realignment possible. First is the European Union-Turkey migration deal, which has turned Turkey from a transit to a destination country. That was a courageous step on Turkey’s part, if you ask me. Second is the economic stability of Turkey, which is clearly a pressing problem. The first is important for Germans while the second is for Turks.
Looking for the terms of a contract between Turkey and Germany? Jumpstarting the EU accession process appears to be the best way forward. Turkey can play a more transformative role in the Middle East by completing its Europeanization process. I know it will not be easy, but the EU conditionality is what the Turkish economy desperately needs right now.