The first World-war was the defining moment in the history of the Ottoman Empire.

It was an expensive and costly expedition that finally brought down the curtains on the once burgeoning political and administrative empire that stretched from the middle-east into North Africa.

Her defeat in the hands of foreign powers saw her grandeur, influences and vassals decimated and taken away from her.

And in the face of this humiliating defeat, the Ottomans needed a hero; one that could, at least restore their dignity and territory. And that man was General Kemal Ataturk, the founding father of modern Turkey.

Ataturk blatantly rejected the treaty presented by the victorious army of the West and returned to the trenches. It was a move that yielded victory as he and his army fought and pushed the foreign powers out of Turkey’s territory thereby laying the foundation for modern Turkey in 1923.

Fast forward to 2017, and it seems another “Ataturk” is in the making in Ankara-just that he’s trying to project new Ottoman power beyond the shores of Turkey.

Recep Taryyip Erdogan is the new strain of Turkey’s founding father except that the real “Ataturk” opened up Turkey and made it more secular.

Under him, the country has gradually become a police state; clamp down on oppositions, and asphyxiation of the media has taken foothold in Ataturk’s Turkey after the botched coup on his government.

Besides arrogating more powers to himself, Erdogan took a detour from ‘Ataturk’ by trying to dismantle Turkey’s secularism and project new Ottoman power. The latter most especially has been a policy bandied just across the borders of Iraq, and Syria with the ultimate aim of wielding greater influence in the middle-east.

And as it seems bullying Europe to improve his ratings back at home and swell Turks to vote favourably in an upcoming referendum slated for this month that seeks to grant him more powers has put him on a collision course with fellow NATO member, Netherlands.

Erdogan’s quest for power and greater geo-political cravings could be disturbing as the ongoing diplomatic row with Amsterdam suggests. Just like Russia’s Putin, the 57 year-old President, does not care about whose Ox is gored as long as it paints him as a hero back home.

It is a weapon, a tool that has worked for Erdogan.

Revving up Turkish nationalism, and exploiting the strategic importance and role his government has played in shielding Europe from being overrun by swarms of Syrian refugees escaping the war in Syria,

Erdogan has somewhat revved up not only his ratings among Turks but, also Turkey’s importance and role in the Syrian crisis.

Back to the spat with the Dutch, it was a collision course that could have been easily avoided however, both sides didn’t and what we have now is a rupture in diplomatic relations between Amsterdam and Ankara.

Mark Ruttes, the Dutch prime minister rejected Turkey’s request to have her Foreign Minister, Mevlut Cavusoglu campaign at a rally organized for Turks residing in the Netherlands at Rotterdam ahead of the up-coming referendum that seeks to give Erdogan greater powers because he felt it could threaten public order and disrupt the Dutch elections coming up this week.

That action and turning back Ankara’s family affairs minister Fatma Betul Sayan Kaya at the border with Germany ignited a fiery and scorching response from Turkey’s strong man.

In what could be considered as  ‘tit for tat’ move, Erdogan sealed off the Dutch embassy in Turkey and told the ambassador not to come back labeling the Dutch as “remnants of Nazism and Fascism”.

It is a stand -off that NATO and EU are not prepared for, most especially the Netherlands who seem unperturbed by Turkish reactions.

For Ruttes, saving his political career and that of his party, the People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy comes first. In a changing political landscape that sees far-right politicians winning admiration in a Europe that many believe is liberal and immigration friendly, the threat of the far-right leader Goert Wilders is now more surreal than ever.

And playing weak by bowing to Erdogan’s blackmails might hurt him at the poll.

Hence, the sanctity and territorial sovereignty of the Dutch people comes first for Ruttes and his Freedom Party.

The West is aware of the rising anti-islam and immigration postures gaining foothold in their societies and the Dutch are not oblivious of this while, for Erdogan it is a perfect plot to grandstand and show Turks that he is the ‘main man’ to stand up to Europe.

It is a complicated situation that could further deteriorate if not properly handled by the two NATO members.

Ankara should tone down her rhetoric after all it is Deutsch land and not Turkish territory. Mark Ruttes is under obligation to the Dutch constitution, the Dutch people and not Erdogan.

His hysteria has somewhat caught more frenzy for onlookers, something Rutte the Dutch prime minister himself acknowledged and responded swiftly to by advising the eccentric Turkish president to tone his rants down.

This spat comes at a bad time for Europe and even Ankara.

Still nursing ambition of joining the European Union, Ankara’s patience and persistent knocking at the door of Europe had been topsy-turvy, or preferably swinging like a pendulum as she battled to meet the requirements for admission into the political bloc.

So unrelenting, she even bore the burden of a pact with the EU by sheltering thousands of Syrian refugees on her territory and even stopping many more, fleeing the war in Syria from overrunning mainland Europe. However, danger lurks.

This pact might be torn into shreds by Erdogan; a dangerous move that could further alienate him from the West and even scupper Turkey’s ascension into the EU.

The 57 year old has not only riled against Amsterdam but, has threatened the EU that, he would renege on the pact that has somewhat kept refugees away from Europe’s doorstep.

But, really the Netherlands, Europe need Turkey and same goes for Erdogan: He needs Europe. Turks living in EU member states are estimated to be over three million, a positive sign and seal of approval for Europe’s liberal policy on immigration. It is a socio-economic policy that has benefitted the member states of the union and even the aspiring Turks.

Hence, this diplomatic row between Rutte and Erdogan must be resolved.

De-escalating the crisis should be the main focus of both men; most especially Erdogan, who is grandstanding and using the row to boost his popularity back home.

Europe and the Turks need each other; it is an umbilical cord that can’t be severed.  The earlier both Ankara and Amsterdam realizes this, the better it would be for the rest of the continent.


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