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Who won what from the Rotterdam incident?

There are a lot of people who are asking whether Erdogan has gone mad. The question started last summer, but in truth, I don't think it's the case. I have written about this before, and I seriously believe that Erdogan is just following a plan conceived years ago and succeeding.

Erdogan's panislamist ambitions are news to nobody. He's been trying to stir up the Turkish religious side (everybody knows there are two Turkeys, the city educated secular Turkey and the peasants in Anatolia who still bury their daughters alive if they even look at a stranger), and so far he's been successful.

Erdogan has been playing the world like a pro under Barack Obama's far too permissive gaze, and one has to wonder what the game is if only it wasn't so clear.

As I predicted last summer Turkey is now all but out of NATO. The US only has itself to blame for this, and the one to profit from this development is Putin. Erdogan has been pushing around him for years, to see who's going to let him do what he wanted. When he pushed at Israel (the infamous flotilla issue many have already forgot), Israel pushed back so Turkey withdrew, tail wedged firmly between its legs.

When it pushed at Russia, Putin reacted short and sharp: cutting all economic relations with Turkey, so paralyzing Turkey's fragile economy and making Erdogan do a 180 degrees turn.

But Europe has been letting Turkey get away with shit for almost as long as I've been alive. Europe never did anything after Turkey occupied part of Cyprus, EU and NATO member. Europe has been permitting a lot of Turkish citizens to come and settle in its midst, because Germany needs the Turkish markets and Turkey was such a valuable NATO ally in the South East of Europe. Europe never did anything over the decades when Turkey and Greece were in a state of cold war. Europe never said a thing to Turkey about their massacre of Kurds. On top of that, Europe preferred to close its eyes at the evidence pointing out that Erdogan was openly collaborating with ISIS, and did very little very late to stop the waves of fake refugees invading the Balkans from Turkey. When they decided to do something about it, what they did was to gift Erdogan 3 billion euros which won him his last election. Erdogan has been threatening ever since that more money is needed lest he unleashes the waves of migrants over Europe, and now he's pushing for visa free travel for Turkish citizens in Europe.

On top of that Erdogan has been openly stirring up nationalist Turkish sentiments in the masses of Turkish immigrants in Europe. "Why?" you ask? There is no actually logical reason for him and his ministers to do this. These people left Turkey, many have abandoned their Turkish citizenship in favour of that of their new country, They aren't very likely to vote in the Turkish elections, so why is Erdogan courting them when there isn't even a Turkish election coming up?

That is a good question. The answer is pretty simple: Erdogan doesn't want these people to feel integrated in Europe. He wants them to never forget that they are Turkish, and by his latest threats he wants them to regard themselves as soldiers in his holy war army.

And now we get to the funny part: last week's incidents in Rotterdam. A minister from Erdogan's government was meant to speak at a Turkish community rally in Rotterdam, the second biggest city in the Netherlands. The Dutch government had issues with this request, and banned said minister from landing. The Turkish community had a little riot dispersed with water cannons by the Dutch Moroccan mayor of Rotterdam Aboutaleb, and then things apparently calmed down. Turkey made a bunch of ridiculous statements, Holland's prime minister Rutte replied with harsh words, Erdogan spewed more nonsense accusing the Dutch of being Nazis, then accusing the Germans of being a bandit state (us eastern Europeans will not entirely disagree with that statement), then threatening with a holy war against Europe.

And nobody asked the simple question: Why would the Turkish minister of education come to speak to the Turks in Rotterdam? She has no influence on how they live their lives. There is nothing she could do or say that would change their lives for the better or affect them in any way.

Yet we're supposed to accept that this is somehow natural. Guess what? I'm an immigrant myself, and I've never seen a minister of my homeland decide he should come and talk to us immigrants out of the blue, not even in an election year ( not that they'd come in an election year). And us Romanians, we have this thing where we actually vote in our homeland's elections, and God help the government who takes us for granted. In 2009, Traian Basescu only became president of Romania because of our votes.

But it's pretty common knowledge the Turks in the diaspora don't vote, so what was the point of this whole event? A similar one happened in France the next day, so why?

Some people, especially in the Netherlands, believe this was a setup to make Rutte look tough against the Turks and score some points against Wilders. Which kind of worked, Rutte managing to not get completely obliterated in the elections and ONLY losing 25% of his parliamentary seats- which is somehow being spinned as a victory.

This is not impossible. We know Rutte is Merkel's lapdog, and we also know that him and Merkel had a secret agreement with Turkey in which they committed to take in hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees, before the decision was ever put to the other EU members.

Threatened by the return of nationalism as a legitimate political movement, Merkel and Rutte are not beyond arranging this little war of words with Erdogan to singe the wings of European populism a bit by presenting Wilders' otherwise decent gain (plus 33% seats is a win) as a defeat. Would Erdogan have gone with it? Maybe. Erdogan is not a stupid man, and he knows best that money talks and bullshit walks. Much as many a voice in the EU Parliament and in the Dutch newspapers responded rather bellicosely to his words, words are just words.

We all know Rutte will not stand up to Merkel on the issue of Turkey getting free travel rights in the EU, because the only people Rutte stands up to are the Dutch elderly whose pensions he overtaxes and whose health insurance he keeps on increasing.

So if this was a set up, it delivered. Some of the Dutch got reassured that Rutte is not a complete toerag: look how strongly he responded to Turkey, and he's definitely better than that scary man Wilders. Rutte can spin barely hanging on to power as a victory (although it remains to be seen how a coalition government of 4-5 parties will function in these turbulent times) and continue what he does and the people who are paid to spin can claim this was a defeat for populism (because winning 33% more seats is definitely worse than losing 25% ). There is a chance that Rutte's new coalition government might choose to be a bit tougher on the Turks, but if you actually believe Rutte will stand up to Merkel on anything, you're seriously mistaken.

The war of words means nothing if it's not followed by actions. The Netherlands is the biggest foreign investor in Turkey, accounting for $22 billion, or 16%, of total foreign direct investment. Turkish exports to the Netherlands totalled $3.6 billion last year, making it Turkey's 10th biggest market.

Which can both mean Erdogan did his pal Rutte a favour by letting him look tough (probably not a free favour though), or his endgame is coming into view and he doesn't care about his previous friends and allies. On the other hand, it's possible that Erdogan is aware that the days of free money from the EU are over, and now he doesn't need them anymore he's throwing the EU cheerfully under the bus. Enter Russia?

It could also mean that Russia is ready to step in to fill the gap of European investments. Russia has money- contrary to what the western media claims, Russia is doing well for itself and its income has continuously grown ever since Putin took power.

It is possible that Putin might want to take over the US base at Incirlik. Russia has demanded the US share it before, and we all know the US won't start a war on Turkey any time soon, even if Trump wants it to. A stronger Russian presence in Turkey means controlling the Bosphor and Dardanele Straits, cutting off the South Eastern European countries from the world's block chain routes, but also cutting off any foreign aid anyone might think to send to Ukraine. Russia has always aimed to have the Black Sea as a Russian lake, and that goal is important enough economically and politically for Putin to accept the unappetising alliance with Erdogan.

This would fit with his modus operandi so far, we know he's been referring to the Turkish community in Europe and to the Syrian refugees as weapons, we know he's coordinating every move with Putin, who cannot even in anyone's wildest dreams be suspected of being a friend to the EU. We know Erdogan had open links with ISIS and we have no reason to believe he'd have severed them. So all the recent brouhaha might just be Erdogan overplaying his hand and trying to start a war in Europe to improve his panislamist cred and proceed to the endgame he always wanted: the restoration of Turkey as the caliphate. I mean, who'd stop him? Obama let him get away with closing down and then strip searching the US base at Incirlik, an act that would have turned Turkey into a glass crater overnight 10 years ago. Putin? Putin is too big of a fan of the give'em enough rope thinking school to stop his enemies from destroying themselves. If Erdogan attacks Europe, well, what's that to Putin? He has no interest in Europe, and he doesn't LIKE Turkey, so regardless who loses in this, Putin still wins.

So if Erdogan did this just to make noise, he won, he got to talk shit at the EU and look like a strongman to his followers and the diaspora Turkish communities, who are many things but not integrated. 80% of the Turks in Germany live on welfare, and the only reason we don't have data on the other EU countries' Turkish minorities is because gathering data on ethnic backgrounds is a bad bad horrible racist thing that would encourage the right.

We do however have some interestingly similar data from the UK, not about the Turks but the Muslim population in general. Turns out only 19% of the adult Muslims in the UK are actually in full time employment, 60% of the general population's full time employment rate.

Maybe it's just a coincidence the data looks similar.

And Trump still has his homeground turf to manage, so it might be a while until he gets to Turkey on his list. It might be a while but I have this feeling Mattis has a plan.

However, until then we'll have to see what happens.

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