FILE PHOTO: European Council President Charles Michel (R) and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen brief the media on the second day of a European Union (EU) summit at The European Council Building in Brussels on October 2, 2020. EPA, JOHN THYS / POOL
A quote attributed to Vladimir Lenin says: “The capitalists will sell us the rope with which we will hang them.” Regardless of whether he said it or not, it fits perfectly what is happening with Erdogan’s Turkey and the European Union.
In 2015, on the 562nd anniversary of the Conquest of Constantinople by the Ottoman Turks, Erdogan delivered a long speech on Conquest. He said:
“We will always uphold the spirit of the conquest and the legacy of our martyrs…Conquest is migration… Conquest is Jerusalem… Conquest is Andalusia. It is to build the most beautiful architecture, literature and culture of the world with its Cordoba and Granada… It is to fly the flag of Islam in Jerusalem again… It is to open the doors of Anatolia to this blessed nation before Vienna… It is to bring together the sycamore that will cover three continents and seven climates… We will be strong on all our brothers and sisters; we will extend a hand all over the world. We will be with our brothers wherever needed… When we say the world is bigger than five in the United Nations, this is what we say. We act with this understanding in Syria, Egypt, Iraq and Libya. With this feeling, we lend a hand to our cognates in Cyprus, Crimea and our brothers in the Balkans. Turkey is in Africa…”
His speech was a glorification of war, a glorification of the slaughter and enslavement of people, of looting and destruction for the glory of Turkey. He declared his ambition to extend Turkish influence over three continents, Asia, Europe and Africa. He expressed his dream “to fly the flag of Islam in Jerusalem again.” He presented Turkey as the protector of all Muslims – brothers and sisters – all over the world, and justified his interventions in Syria, Egypt, Iraq, Libya, other parts of Africa, Cyprus, Crimea, and the Balkans as the extension of a hand to help them.
On January 22, 2018, while his army continued its attacks on the Kurdish region of Afrin in Syria, Erdogan said: “We are heading toward the Kizil Elma. People pray at mosques, come up to kiss our soldiers’ forehead, these are all beautiful instances. Yes, we have a Kizil Elma.” In Turkish, Kizil Elma means Red Apple which in Turkish mythology is the symbol of the goal of Turks to conquer the entire Earth and establish a great empire. This myth is passionately promoted by modern Turkish nationalist writers. [ https://www.britannica.com/biography/Ziya-Gokalp#ref13628 ] [ https://educalingo.com/en/dic-tr/kizilelma ] [ https://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/style/longterm/books/chap1/constantinople.htm ]
On August 24, 2020, Turkey’s Ministry of Communications released a music video titled the “Red Apple March” that portrays Erdogan as an heir of the Ottoman and Seljuk dynasties. The lyrics include: “The goal of the Red Apple will be reached only with the lives [lost] on the way… Only with the conquest of the Red Apple will the world find tranquility and peace… Come, my Turkey, for the love of Allah. Put another stamp on history… The world is waiting for ‘There is no god but Allah.’” Upon the release of the video, Communications Minister Fahrettin Altun tweeted: “For us, the Red Apple is a great and powerful Turkey. It is the blessed march of our nation, which has written legends… The Red Apple is the great sycamore tree in the shade of which many oppressed [peoples] cool themselves. It is what all people from Gibraltar to the Hijaz, from the Balkans to Asia, await wishfully.”
The video is a call to war to reestablish the Ottoman empire – for the glory of Turkey – clothed as an undertaking to bring tranquility and peace to all people from Gibraltar to the Hijaz, from the Balkans to Asia, as if these people would long the return of the dark ages of the Ottoman era.
After a Cabinet meeting in early October 2020, Erdogan said: “Turkey has attained the power to carry out with active military support its political and economic policies on the ground. Those accustomed to speaking to us with an imperious tone now negotiate with us on equal terms … We have fully subverted their policies to subjugate us to decisions taken without us on all regional and global matters.”
He openly stated his determination to pursue the political and economic policies of his government by military force. He claimed that Turkey, because of its military power, should be a participant in decision making “on all regional and global matters” – Turkey has to be counted as a regional and global power.
Erdogan’s rhetoric on conquest is not just rhetoric, he is backing it up with actions. Erdogan has built a powerful military to give substance to his rhetoric on making Turkey a regional and even global power. Turkey used its military power to invade Cyprus in 1974, and continues to occupy 37% of the island. It has intervened militarily in Syria, Iraq, Libya, and Nagorno Karabakh. It has established military bases in Iraq, Syria, Qatar, Somalia, Sudan, Azerbaijan, Northern Cyprus and Albania. [ https://ahvalnews.com/turkish-military/significance-turkeys-overseas-military-bases ] [ https://medium.com/thoughts-economics-politics-sustainability/turkish-military-presence-abroad-why-where-history-beyond-base-b3e18cbdc69b ]
Turkey is continuously violating the airspace and maritime borders of Greece and Cyprus, two Member States of the EU, and is threatening them with war. In violation of international law, Erdogan is seeking to impose Turkey’s hegemony in Eastern Mediterranean by claiming as “Blue Homeland” the sea on which Greece and Cyprus have sovereign or economic rights. Erdogan is defying efforts of the EU to resolve any disputes in compliance with international law, and he is provocatively reneging on his promises to enter into a dialogue. He has challenged and defied EU efforts to bring peace in Libya. In the midst of terrorist attacks by radical Islamists against France, Erdogan became the leading voice of radical Islam. Portraying himself as the defender of Muslims in the World, called the President of France, Emmanuel Macron, mentally damaged. “Macron needs mental treatment,” he said. “What is the problem of this person Macron with Muslims and Islam?”
Erdogan does not lose any opportunity to criticize, using inflammatory war rhetoric, policies and politicians of Germany, France, and other European countries where there are large Muslim and Turkish communities. For example, in March 2017, after Germany and the Netherlands banned Turkish officials to campaign – in Germany and Netherlands – in support of a referendum on boosting Erdogan’s powers, Erdogan said: “If Europe continues this way, no European in any part of the world can walk safely on the street.” [ https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/turkey-erdogan-germany-netherlands-warning-europeans-not-walk-safely-a7642941.html ] In June 2018, referring to a decision of the Austrian government to shut down seven mosques as part of a clampdown on “political Islam” he said: “These measures taken by the Austrian prime minister are, I fear, leading the world towards a war between the cross and the crescent,” [ https://www.thenationalnews.com/world/europe/erdogan-denounces-austria-s-decision-to-close-mosques-1.738390 ].
To demonstrate Turkey’s independence from the U.S. and the NATO Alliance, Erdogan purchased, installed, and tested the Russian S-400 missile system in defiance of the vehement opposition of the Alliance and the threat of sanctions by the U.S.
According to the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, while in 1999 Turkey was the third most arms-importing country, in 2018, was the 14th. In 2010, Turkey had one company on the list of Top 100 Global Defense Companies, but presently it has seven—more companies than Israel, Russia, Sweden and Japan combined. Turkey has transitioned from importing 70 percent of its military hardware to 30 percent. For Erdogan, the development and expansion of a domestic arms industry has become a personal project, and the goal of his government is for Turkey to manufacture all of its own weapons by 2023. [ https://www.turkey-japan.com/business/category1/category1_70.pdf ]
Who provided the know-how to Turkey to develop a military industry for the needs of Erdogan’s hegemonic ambitions? The U.S. and Europe. According to the Greek newspaper Kathimerini, Germany has provided to Turkey the know-how for the German-designed Type 214 submarine and for the air-independent propulsion systems. There is cooperation between Germany and Turkey in the production of the Leopard tank. Germany provides technological assistance in the production of the KORKUT medium-range anti-aircraft system and of PORSAV missiles. Germany has provided engines for the Turkish navy’s national corvette, and the national frigate (MILGEM). Germany designed and built two MEKO frigates for the Turkish navy and two more were built in Turkey with German assistance. Negotiations are under way between Germany and Turkey for the transfer of know-how for the engine of the Altay tank produced in Turkey. Germany, France and Spain, have also provided know-how for the A-400 transport aircraft. Italy has provided significant know-how on attack helicopters and spy satellites. Spain provided the know-how for the Anadolu helicopter, and sold to Turkey the CN-235 Naval Cooperation Aircraft, which together with the Italian-made ATR-72 allow the Turkish Air Force to monitor the Aegean and East Mediterranean.
Clearly, the capitalists of the EU are selling to Turkey the rope with which the Turkish nationalists plan to hang them.
Erdogan’s rhetoric and actions are most antithetical to core values and principles of the EU: peaceful cooperation, democracy, the rule of law, and the respect of human rights. Turkey is an EU neighbor and EU has to deal with Turkey. But Erdogan does not understand the language of the renaissance and enlightenment. As it has many times been demonstrated, the only language he understands is that of power.
Article 42 of the EU Treaty provides: “If a Member State is the victim of armed aggression on its territory, the other Member States shall have towards it an obligation of aid and assistance by all the means in their power, in accordance with Article 51 of the United Nations Charter.”
To maintain or restore international peace and security, Articles 41 and 42 of the United Nations Charter provide for the application of measures including “complete or partial interruption of economic relations and of rail, sea, air, postal, telegraphic, radio, and other means of communication…” and if these would have proved inadequate “it may take such action by air, sea, or land forces as may be necessary to maintain or restore international peace and security…”
As the rhetoric and the actions of Erdogan undisputedly demonstrate, the ambitions of Turkish nationalism extend beyond Greece and Cyprus. They “cover three continents and seven climates…all people from Gibraltar to the Hijaz, from the Balkans to Asia.” If the EU is real, and not a paper project that serves the short term interests of the capitalists of Europe, and especially of Germany, we have to “hang together”, because if we do not, surely, we shall “hang separately”.
The EU has to make unmistakably clear to Erdogan and his fellow nationalists that the borders of its Member States are borders of the EU, and the EU is committed to defend them by taking actions as provided by Article 42 of the EU Treaty and articles 41 and 42 of the United Nations Charter, starting with economic sanctions, and proceeding with the presence of military forces of Member States at the borders threatened by Turkey, if would be needed. Any dialogue for the resolution of any differences between Turkey and EU Member States has to be based on this understanding and on the provisions of international law. And most obviously, EU should stop the transfer of know-how and the sale of military equipment to Turkey.