Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Turkey's president, Tayyip Erdogan once again threatens Europe, says citizens won't be safe in the streets.

President Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey at a campaign rally. AFP. 

"If you continue to behave like this, tomorrow in no part of the world, no European, no Westerner will be able to take steps on the street safely and peacefully,".

Erdogan did not expand on what he meant by that but seemed to imply that Europeans would suffer the same "abuse" that he claims Turks do in Europe. Tensions between Europe and Turkey have been high ever since the Netherlands prevented Erdogan's diplomats from campaigning for a referendum that would dramatically increase Erdogan's power. Diplomats were prevented from campaigning and some were even expelled. Erdogan has called Europeans Nazis for the row and because Germany is demanding the release of Deniz Yucel, a German journalist of Turkish descent being held in Turkey.

My Comment:
I talked about Erdogan's war of words with the West last week. His comments then were beyond the pale but Erdogan has really gone all out now. You can debate what he meant by saying that Europeans and Westerners won't be safe in streets, but it sure came across as a threat to me. Though he made no promises of violence when I hear a Muslim leader saying that people won't be safe in the streets I think that there will be riots or terrorist attacks. If that isn't what Erdogan means then he needs to clear things ASAP because I don't think Europe is going to interpret it in any other way. 

And I have to wonder about Erdogan's mental stability right now. Though the world is getting used to bombastic leaders saying crazy things, threatening the safety of the citizens of Europe while walking on the streets is quite an escalation. That's on top of his demands that Turks in Europe purposefully outbreed and invade Europeans neighborhoods. I think the Turks in Europe are capable of doing both, and either threat will have serious repercussions if they happen.   

Worst of all, it seems Erdogan accused the Germans of being Nazis. Whatever you think of Angela Merkel and the current state of Germany, they are in no way as bad as Hitler was. And I say that as someone who despises Merkel and thinks that the German people are pretty much beyond hope politically. Germans, in fact, hate being called Nazis to the point where it's a massive insult for anyone to make the comparison. To have a world leader, and a NATO ally to Germany, call the Germans Nazis and terrorist supporters is a massive diplomatic insult. 

And it's not like Erdogan should be accusing anyone of being a terrorist. Leaving beside the fact that he appears to be threatening Europe with terrorism himself, Turkey long turned a blind eye to ISIS in Syria. They even bought oil from them and for far too long they allowed ISIS recruits to cross the border to fight in Syria and Iraq. And they have also offered material support to the rebels fighting Bashar al-Assad's forces there. Some of those rebels were jihadist terrorists as well... 

Though I don't know if I entirely agree with Europe's criticism of Erdogan using his diplomats to campaign for his referendum or the actions the Netherlands took to prevent it, it's clear that he is playing a dangerous game. Though the incident with the Netherlands probably could have been handled better, that's no excuse for the kind of diplomatic insults that Erdogan is lobbing at all of Europe, and, indeed, all of the Western world right now. 

I also need to point out that Erdogan has gone far beyond just insulting the governments of Europe. In this latest rant, he seems to be threatening all of the innocent civilians in Europe just because of the actions of two of the governments that he is having a pissing match with. That's pretty inexcusable for anyone in any context... 

I do think it's obvious that Erdogan is acting fairly desperately and it raises the question of what he has to gain here. I feel these incidents proof that he needs the referendum to pass. His hold on power appears to be fairly precarious. Remember, just last year he barely fought off a coup by the military that almost succeeded. A lot of people died in that conflict and I am guessing that Erdogan feels more than a little paranoid. 

We have two possibilities. First, Erdogan knows how his actions will be perceived in Europe and across the world. He understands the risks involved and doesn't care because the votes from expatriates, who support the referendum more then Turks at home, could help him win. He needs to win and is willing to alienate and threaten his allies to do so. Though his descion is unwise, there is at least a rational thought process going on and I doubt if he remains rational it will go beyond anything but talk. It's scary and disturbing, but not an actual threat. 

The other possibility is much more dangerous and concerning. He might just be losing it. Like I said, he's got every reason to be paranoid and he might be thinking that the entire world is in a conspiracy against him. Given how readily the United States and Europe have overthrown world leaders that angered them, I don't entirely disagree with him, even though I think he's probably wrong. If the second option is the case though then Europe could be entering into a very dark place. I don't want to use the "w" world here but I think the chances of actual conflict in Europe have increased a bit... especially if Erdogan isn't thinking rationally. Let's hope that the first option is correct and this is all just big talk... 

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