Title picture: Cloudscapes, Stornoway, 1 February 2017

Wednesday, 22 March 2017

The Turk and the Czar - continued

This is an extension to a post I first wrote on The Shell Gallery blog 6 days ago. 

Vladimir Putin and Recep Erdogan. A dangerous mix, which puts Europe in mortal danger. On April 16th, the Turks will vote in a referendum to afford the Turkish presidents sweeping powers which would turn his presidency into an autocracy. Erdogan is pulling out all the stops to get the diaspora to vote as well, some 5 million strong. His ministers are travelling the length and breadth of Europe - and we saw what happened in Rotterdam. It was thoroughly disconcerting to see the mass of flag-waving Turks in the city, turning to rioting when their minister was sent away. And some militants claiming that the city of Rotterdam will soon be theirs.

It has been suggested that Erdogan wishes to reinstate the Caliphate, which ruled Turkey until 1924. He could just as easily wish to reinstate the Ottoman Empire, which (at one point) reached as far as Vienna in the 17th century. What does that remind you of?

Vladimir Putin. He wishes to reinstate the Russian Federation to within the borders of the old USSR, abolished in 1991. He also wishes to extend his sway to the whole of Europe, made easier by US president Donald Trump. He is not too bothered about Europe, and Putin knows that.

If Erdogan gets his new powers, he could just as easily foment trouble in the Turkish communities in Europe, setting off civil unrest if not worse. Erdogan could cancel the migrant deal, that has stopped the flow of migrants from Syria and other places across the Aegean Sea into Greece and the EU. Hundreds of thousands would come across, causing further instability in Europe. And, with Donald Trump not really minding what happens in Europe, Vladimir Putin could march in to restore stability on Russia's borders. In Ukraine. In Poland. In Germany. In Holland. In the United Kingdom, where Brexit will loosen the ties to continental Europe, where Sturgeon's Scotland seeks to secede.

Why does Putin have this chance, you may well ask. Because after the abortive coup in Ankara in July last year, Western leaders were very reluctant to congratulate him. The Dutch foreign ministerwas actually among the first to call his Turkish counterpart at the time. So, Putin saw his chance. It is often argued that Turkey has so much to lose in a conflict with Europe. Erdogan may calculate that he has more to gain through being Putin's puppet than through being in NATO or friendly with the EU.

There is one other angle on this. If there is conflict between Europe and Turkey, this also means a schism in the NATO alliance. Should this really come to pass, then Putin will have achieved his aims. We should be very worried - if Erdogan gets the majority of Turks to vote Evet. Yes.