Don’t panic Berlin: Everything will come up roses

Don’t panic Berlin: Everything will come up roses

What can possibly justify this columnist’s unusual optimism over the crisis with Berlin at an exclusively very bad time, when Turkish threats have forced the German security apparatus to assign bodyguards to a Turkish-German MP? There are two very good signs: Turkey has recalled its ambassador to Berlin and it has warned of “serious consequences.” There are also other good signs that point to brighter Turkish-German relations. 

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan accused a “superior mind” [and we don’t know if that superior mind is German or not] for the Armenian genocide resolution that passed in the Bundestag last week. Mr. Erdoğan also linked the near unanimous vote for the resolution to Islamophobia in Europe – the same Islamophobia that recently elected a Muslim man as the mayor of London. Then one of the Turkish Pravdas posted a picture of Chancellor Angela Merkel with her name printed above her upper lip in block letters made to look like Hitler’s “toothbrush” mustache. 

There is nothing seriously wrong on the Berlin-Ankara axis over things that Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım says were just “ordinary events that could take place in any society or any country.” Never mind if those “ordinary events” were hundreds of thousands of people perishing…

But the biggest safety valve for the healthy future of Turkish-German relations is Turkey’s customary “bark and bite” problem. Let me explain.  

Before the French legislature recognized the Armenian genocide in 2001, Turkey threatened to freeze all economic, political and military ties with the country, including defense contracts. In response, the French parliament recognized the Armenian genocide. And Turkey’s bilateral trade with France rose from $4 billion in 2001 to $15 billion a decade later. The German crisis will most probably have the same “positive trade effect” – or even more.

However, a decade later, Turkey was threatening France again: This time, all economic, political and military ties would be frozen if the French legislature criminalized denial of Armenian genocide. Then foreign minister Ahmet Davutoğlu said the French bill, if passed, would “dishonor our country and nation.”
Having learned from past experiences how punishing Turkey’s wrath could be, the French legislature passed the genocide denial bill. A few months later, France’s Supreme Court overturned the bill. So in the end “our country and nation were not dishonored.” In June 2012, Mr. Davutoğlu cheerfully announced that Turkey and France could now live happily ever after. 

That introduced a new Turkish jurisprudence on the Armenian genocide dispute. Between 2001 and 2012, Turkey moved from threatening countries whose legislatures recognized the genocide to living happily ever after with such countries as long as their denial laws did not go into effect.

As I wrote here in March 2015: “Turkey’s deterrence-through-$$$$$ policy on the Armenian genocide issue embarrassingly collapsed in 2012. With the French precedent, no country will take ‘Turkey’s wrath’ seriously because it does not exist.”

Turkish jurisprudence over the Armenian genocide dispute will surely be carefully examined by countries that have not yet recognized the genocide. 

It is difficult to keep track of the flight itineraries of Turkish ambassadors recalled over genocide rows before being sent back. There is no doubt that the Turkish ambassador to Berlin, now in Ankara, bought a two-way ticket – after all, they are cheaper!