Let’s get real on Germany

Let’s get real on Germany

The German Bundestag is not likely to revoke its Armenian genocide resolution, which has angered Ankara. Turkey wants German Chancellor Angela Merkel to at least come out and declare that this resolution is null and void for her. That won’t happen either.

Unable to respond in any effective way to Berlin, Ankara has chosen the meaningless path of “niggling retaliation.” It is blocking visitations by German politicians and medium-level government officials to Turkey’s İncirlik Air Base, where German military personnel are deployed against the Islamist State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).

German Defense Undersecretary Ralf Brauksiepe and a group of parliamentarians were denied entry to İncirlik recently. President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu are adamant that this ban will continue. Not surprisingly, Berlin is up in arms. 

German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen has gotten clearance from Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım to visit the base. Yıldırım of course has no other choice but to give this clearance. Blocking this visit would put Ankara at loggerheads with other NATO allies and fuel their general mistrust of Turkey’s current leadership.
Meanwhile, German deputies are quoted saying this affair could result in the withdrawal of the German presence at the base. It was announced at the recent NATO summit in Warsaw that Germany would provide key support for Turkey’s air defense.

If Ankara insists on its “niggling retaliation,” and this results in the Germans pulling out of Incirlik it would be a disastrous development for Turkey, not Germany. It was Turkey that called on NATO for help after the Syrian crisis started spilling over into its territory.

During the first and second Gulf wars and the conflicts in the region following the Arab Spring, Germany was among the countries providing support for Turkey against missile attacks. Preventing German deputies and medium-level government officials from visiting İncirlik appears, therefore, to be just another one of Ankara’s ill-considered foreign policy tactics which rarely, if at all, produce any results.

We see today where these tactics have left Turkey internationally, and how the government is trying to come out of the hole it dug for itself in this respect. Erdoğan and the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) clearly want to show their supporters how determined Turkey is in responding to things like the Armenian resolution.

This may convince some but many will be asking why Ankara doesn’t chuck the whole German military contingent out if it is so angry and as principled as it claims to be, rather than fooling around in this manner. 
The simple answer is that Ankara, while flexing its muscles with regard to German deputies and medium-level officials, does not have the capacity to do this against the German state. If it did NATO would start factoring in this possibility with regard to other allies that Ankara is angry at over this or that issue, and make its plans on the basis of the assumption of Turkey’s unreliability.

Veteran Turkish foreign policy analyst Cengiz Çandar argued in his piece for Al Monitor this week that one of the reasons behind Ankara’s drive to reconcile with Israel and Russia is to shore up its positon against the West.

Given how ties with Russia and Israel hit rock-bottom overnight, however, there is no reason why this can’t happen again with these countries, leaving Turkey with zero friends once more. We know that Erdoğan and his supporters hate all things associated with the West, but they are learning the hard way how much Turkey actually depends on its ties with Europe and the U.S., loath this as they may.

If what Çandar said is true, it means Ankara still has not understood the lessons of its past foreign policy mistakes.  Relying on Russia and Israel as a counter-balance to the EU and NATO would simply be the latest example of a less-than-clever (to put it nicely) move by Turkey’s current leadership.