A hundred years ago Turkey was known as “The Sick Man of Europe” — and with good reason. For most of the 19th century it had been driven back and whittled away by the European powers until its territory was reduced to a tiny slice of European soil, the Anatolian peninsula, and a set of destitute fiefdoms in the Eastern Mediterranean, the Arabian Peninsula, and the Maghreb.
At the height of its power in 1683, the Ottoman Empire — which was also the Caliphate in those days — extended to the gates of Vienna in the northwest, into Polish territory in the north, into Russian territory in the Black Sea and the Caucasus, into Persia in the east, and along the Arab-dominated littorals of Arabia, the Persian Gulf, the Indian Ocean, the Red Sea, and North Africa.
Turkey staggered into the 20th century as an empire only because certain of the great powers found it expedient to keep it on life support. Great Britain in particular needed the “sick man” to act as a buffer between Russia and British interests in the Mediterranean and the Near East. Denying Russia access to the Dardanelles was a principal British foreign policy objective right up until 1914, and a near-moribund Turkey served that purpose very well.
Then came the Great War, and everything changed. Turkey was dismembered, Russia became the Soviet Union, and Britain, France, and Italy agreed to divide up the Near East as best suited their interests.
Modern Turkey is a stronger and more effective power than the Ottoman Empire was under the last of the Sultans. Even so, it is still no real danger to Europe — if the Turks were to become bellicose, even the shriveled military capability of the EU could handle them.
So why has Europe chosen to cower and truckle in the face of Turkish arrogance and supremacism? Why did the EU allow Turkey to become the playground bully of Europe?
As an example of this inexplicable trend, consider the following article from The Local about Turkey’s latest demands on Germany:
Erdogan Says Germany Must Support Turkish EU Membership
A day before he is due in Germany, Turkish President [actually Prime Minister — BB] Tayyib Erdogan has harshly criticised Germany’s policy towards Turkish efforts to join the European Union, saying it should support full membership.
“The expectation of the Turkish population is that Germany, as previously under earlier CDU governments, take a leading role within the EU regarding the entry negotiations with Turkey,” Erdogan told Saturday’s edition of the Rheinische Post.
Notice that the Turkish prime minister is right at home with ordering the German government around. His demands are not phrased as polite requests, but as near-commands — as if he were accustomed to German obedience.
He acknowledges that Chancellor Merkel’s policy is aimed at a domestic audience, but he has no qualms about interfering directly in Germany’s internal political affairs:
Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union has most recently proposed a ‘privileged partnership’ between Turkey and the European Union, something Erdogan rejects, and suggested was only a construct for domestic consumption.
Mr. Erdogan has good reason to believe he can meddle in Germany’s affairs, because he has the support and collaboration of eminent German political figures, including a former chancellor:
[Former Chancellor Gerhard] Schröder said this weekend, Turkey should no longer be offered the privileged partnership, which he told the Hannoversche Allgemeine Zeitung had no substance. Germany should behave as a lawyer acting in Turkey’s interests – out of its own interests, considering that Germany is Turkey’s biggest trade partner he said.
There it is in black and white: a prominent German politician says that Germany should act in the interests of Turkey, and not Germany.
How did Germany’s political culture become this degraded?
Erdogan also criticised German integration policies, saying they took no notice of the wishes of the Turkish people concerned.
“I think it successful integration requires the German authorities to no longer deal only one-sidedly but rather to aim for cooperation with Turkish migrants, Turkish civil organisations and the Turkish government.”
In other words: Turkey requires Germany to grant it a say in — and presumably veto power over — German immigration policy. If the Turks insist on filling up Germany with Turkish migrants, then that’s just the way it has to be. Germany has no choice — it must comply.
This post isn’t about Prime Minister Erdogan or the AKP or the arrogance of the Turks. It’s about the fecklessness and cowardice of the German government and the European Union.
How did Europe become so weak and spineless in the face of a foreign power which is such an obvious long-term threat to European interests?
Why all this truckling and spinelessness?
I’d be interested to hear some analysis by our readers. Yes, I know the ideology of Politically Correct Multiculturalism is behind it — but cynical politicians would discard all that in a heartbeat if it improved their electoral chances or served to enhance their power.
So let’s hear what you have to say. But stay on topic for a change — I don’t want the discussion to veer off into any of the customary preoccupations of certain commenters.
Hat tip: C. Cantoni.