By Dr. Evaggelos Vallianatos
Why European leaders are afraid of Turkey NATO officials hesitate to criticize Turkey, much less contemplate policies teaching this Moslem country it cannot threaten the security of Europe and the Middle East. They like to believe, and keep saying to each other, that Turkey is “too big, powerful and strategically important — it is the crossroads of Europe and Asia.”
This may be true, but it is meaningless. Turkey is a large country. But strong? No one knows. But even if it’s strong, Turkey is not stronger than Britain or France or Italy, much less Russia. Turkey has this reputation only because European states worry more about each other than Turkey.
The NATO bureaucratic view of Turkey mirrors the distorted and tortured logic that has guided Europeans for centuries. Rather than healing their religious and political differences and face the Islamic and political threat of Turkey, Europeans have always taken the easy way out and allied themselves with the Moslem Turks against their Christian neighbors.
England and France had a nightmare of Russia breaking up the Ottoman empire, the early version of Turkey. They joined the Ottoman Turks and fought the Crimean War against Russia from 1853 to 1856 to prevent it from taking advantage of the Sultan, the “sick man of Europe.”
It did not matter to England and France that this Ottoman empire was the defender of Islam, threatening Christian societies all over the world. Not only that, but Ottoman armies besieged Vienna in 1529 and 1683. The Ottomans spent around 150 years threatening and terrorizing Western Europe.
In addition, Moslem Turks ruled over Christian countries in central and southeastern Europe. Greece was one of those countries.
Turkey occupies the very land in Asia Minor that was part of Greece for millennia. The Greeks called that territory Ionia. However, Germany, Venice, and France attacked and occupied Greece in the early thirteenth century. The excuse came from the violent fourth crusade of 1204. This unprecedented barbaric Western Christian onslaught on Greece facilitated the Turkish conquest of the country in 1453.
It’s this painful history that keeps the European states fearful of Turkey and unwilling to defend Greece. They know that their support of Turkey and violent punishment of Greece (in order to satisfy debt collection for American and European banks) may repeat, in some fashion or other, in a Turkish attack on Greece. The timidity of the Europeans reveals more than cowardliness – and the Turks know it.
American support of Turkey
World War II wrecked Europe and America appeared as a giant mechanical power contributing to the allied victory over Germans and feeding and helping the starving and disillusioned Europeans. America became the second Rome.
In 1952, the American boss of the Mediterranean brought Turkey to its exclusive military club, NATO: a shield promising a non-existent defense against the nuclear weapons of Russia. But NATO confirmed American hegemony in Europe.
The promotion of Turkey from the sick man of Europe to the cowboy of the Superpower gave the Turks unprecedented access to the thinking and military technologies and strategies of America and Europe.
Like the European states, America is caught in the Turkish net of influence. Turkish diplomats, and especially the Islamist president Recep Tayyip Erdogan (the new Sultan), are playing the Christian states against each other.
Tramp’s royalties from Istanbul
The fervent Moslem Erdogan understands the lust of Trump for money. Trump’s first national security adviser, Michael Flynn, was a paid foreign agent, especially beholden to Turkey. He delayed a joint US-Kurdish attack on the fanatic Islamists in Raqqa in Syria because of his Turkish financial interests. He certainly did not want to displease Erdogan.
“With Turkey’s democracy under fundamental siege and neighboring Syria still at war,” say John Norris and Carolyn Kenney of the Center for American Progress, “the Trump administration’s judgment on Turkish relations appears to have been deeply clouded by shadowy payments from Istanbul to Flynn and Donald Trump’s own overriding concern for protecting his foreign business interests. These are exactly the kinds of conflicts that hurt America and profit Trump.”
Trump’s conflicts of interest were quickly covered up in American policies thanks to invisible and informal family connections tying Erdogan to the White House. Both Trump and Erdogan esteem nothing higher than their immediate families. They have sons-in-law who act as prime ministers behind the throne. These “senior advisors” have the technical skills and devotion to the oligarchy of Tramp and Erdogan that they work day and night for promoting closer business and political relations between America and Turkey.
Berat Albayrak, Erdogan’s son-in-law, prides himself for the backdoor diplomacy he orchestrates with Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law. Erdogan’s second informal ambassador to Trump is Trump’s business partner in Turkey, Mehmet Ali Yalcindag. This is the man enriching Trump with annual payments for using the president’s name on two towers in Istanbul.
It’s this money and the secret family channels of Turkish influence in the White House that explain Trump’s bizarre, nay dangerous, connections to the Turkish tyrant Erdogan at the expense of American national security interests. Kushner has been the bridge for this private business diplomacy.
It was not difficult for Erdogan to convince Trump his Istanbul tower would continue to flourish, provided he withdrew American troops from northern Syria. Trump said yes to profits over American national interest.
Besides, Trump does not seem to understand or like NATO, much less appreciate the gravity of making his private desire for money state policy. John R. Bolton, Trump’s former national security adviser, is convinced Trump “often confuses personal relationships with national relationships when it comes to setting policy.”
Trump in the mind of European leaders
European allies know Trump and Erdogan. They know NATO is an American organization controlling Europe, though American policymakers give them a chance of pretending NATO exists for their defense. This reality has been emasculating European leaders.
The Romans did exactly the same thing. For example, the Roman emperor Nero loved Greece. He participated in the Olympics and, of course, Olympic officials made it possible he won an athletic contest. The grateful emperor ended the taxation of Peloponnesos. Greece is free, he said. But Greek leaders knew better. They kept their mouths shut and did the bidding of their Roman bosses.
In the same fashion, European leaders are unable to be themselves. They salute Trump like the Greeks saluted Nero. That’s why they are incapable of making the European Union a real union. Britain left Europe and Germany cannot be trusted.
European leaders freeze all that they know about Trump and Turkey. They even ignore the perpetual aggression of Turkey towards Greece, which is leading to potential war. Greece is in NATO, too.
Turkish military agenda
European political leaders know that an Islamist Turkey threatens more than Greece. Erdogan is searching for petroleum near Greek islands and, second, he is sending his armies to Syria and Libya. These actions torpedo European policies concerning Russia, Syria, Iraq, and Libya.
Emmanuel Macron of France warned Erdogan to end his dangerous games in Libya. With the exception of Greece, working closely with France, the other NATO allies remain silent.
Michael Rubin, a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington, DC, highlights the dangers of the Trump administration giving Turkey a free hand, not merely in Cyprus but elsewhere in the Middle East, and, of course, in Greece.
“Trump’s refusal to hold Turkey to account encourages aggression,” he says. This aggression takes the form of looting natural wealth and the cleansing of undesirable people: Christians in Cyprus and Kurds in northern Syria, a bloody footprint Turkey is imposing in Iraqi Kurdistan as well. It also uses Islamic State mercenaries to do its fighting in northern Syria and Iraqi Kurdistan. “Turkey,” Rubin says, “has become a state sponsor of terrorism.”