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Comparing the Dutch/Turkish row to the 2014 Ukrainian coup is insulting and wrong

Some have attempted to compare the background to the current Turkish-Dutch diplomatic row to the US, Poland, Sweden and others, funding, orchestrating and encouraging the illegal coup in Kiev in 2014.

The parallels are superficial to the point of a total distortion of recent events.

Here’s why.

1. A foreign rally for a foreign cause 

The planned rally in The Netherlands was designed to engage Turkish citizens about a Turkish vote. The vote is Erdogan’s constitutional referendum that will solidify his position as a dictator in all but name. The vote, if won, will essentially mean that Erdogan has no meaningful parliamentary or judicial oversight of any kind. It will represent the final nail in the coffin of Kemalism and sad day for those who admire Ataturk.

It is worrying, but only for Turkish citizens. Erdogan for all of his countless faults, is not trying to overthrow the government of The Netherlands, nor is he trying to influence the Dutch election.

As it happens, I am sympathetic with the reality that legally, the Dutch are perfectly in order when asking Turkish authorities to postpone the rally until after the upcoming Dutch elections. But even if this alone was cause for an argument, it is still no excuse to kick out and bar the entry of government ministers with diplomatic immunity.

What could have been handled in a grown up and dignified way has become an unnecessary row between two countries who are looking increasingly undignified.

I don’t think anyone on any side of the current dispute could imagine for example, President Putin acting like the Dutch or Turkish sides. He’s head and shoulders above both in terms of being a statesman.

Russia’s pragmatic and respectful approach to diplomatic relations would not have allowed the situation to publicly spiral out of control. The Dutch attitude towards this has allowed an uncomfortable situation to become a shameful one.

Furthermore, if Russia who as recently as 2015 had their fighter plane shot from the sky by Turkey, can engage in healthy diplomatic relations with Erdogan, so too can the Dutch who have had no military engagements with Turkey let alone any profound geo-political disagreements, as Moscow and Ankara do in terms of Syrian policy.

The Dutch overreaction can further be gauged by the fact that a similar rally occurred in France without incident.

2. Maidan Was Regime Change 

The actual parallels with the 2014 Ukrainian coup are the Iraq war and Libyan war. These were wars where western powers, led a war with the overt purpose of toppling the legal governments of sovereign states. The events in Kiev in 2014 were similar.

The only difference is that the regime change was accomplished by financing a violent coup which led the legitimately elected President, Viktor Yanukovych to flee for his life. In this sense, the methodology the US and its allies employed was more similar to the 1953 coup in Iran against the democratically elected Mohammad Mosaddegh or the 1973 coup in Chile against the democratically elected Salvador Allende.

But in terms of the aggregate result, Ukraine’s situation is more like Iraq and Libya. Although Iran and Chile lost their democracies as a result of the CIA orchestrated coups, the states remained stable and even wealthy in the aftermath of the coups.

By contrast, Ukraine has become a failed state where a sectarian war is being waged by fascist extremists (both in and out of government), many of whom call for open genocide against ethno-linguistic Russians.

As this war is being waged, the economy has crumbled, public services have collapsed, infrastructure has crumbled and those who were previously ambivalent about the post-coup government now see it as catastrophic.

This description of a post-regime change state will be familiar to those who have observed Iraq after 2003 and Libya after 2011.

3. Strengthening Democratic Legitimacy 

The 2014 coup in Ukraine saw the outlawing of legal political parties who disagreed with the fascist tone set by the new illegal regime. This including the former President’s Party of Regions as well as the Ukrainian Communist Party.

By contrast no party political changes will occur in The Netherlands or Turkey as a result of the current dispute.

When it comes to Turkey, it was almost a certainty Erdogan would win his referendum by hook or by crook. Such methods would include mobilising his militant base, voter intimidation and in some regions, outright rigging.

Now though, by painting himself as a kind of political martyr to a Europe all ready unpopular among many Turks, Erdogan may not even need to rig votes or intimidate voters. He can simply present himself as a national hero of the Turks. In this sense, The Dutch gave Erdogan a big electoral gift and played directly into his hands. The man likes shouting and the Dutch gave him plenty to shout about.

Likewise, Geert Wilders and his Dutch Freedom Party who had all ready been surging in the polls, have been given a gift by Erdogan. By encouraging the shouting of Turkish slogans and the waving of foreign flags in Dutch streets, Erdogan has given Wilders a gift.

Now Wilders can use a recent example of how foreigners are changing the character of Dutch society. Just as the undiplomatic reaction of the Dutch gives Erdogan his anti-European talking points, so too does Erdogan’s ultra-nationalistic reaction give Wilders his anti-Islam and anti-foreigner talking points.

Both men will have achieved a greater threshold of legitimate democratic approval as a result.

4. No meaningful change 

Most importantly, whether one is an ethnic Russian living in Donetsk or a neo-Nazi living in Lviv, no one can argue that the Ukraine of 2014 is the same as it was before. Not only will it never go-back, the entire historically dubious borders of such a state will almost certainly continue to change beyond the point of recognition.

By contrast, nothing will change for Turkey or The Netherlands. Erdogan isn’t going anywhere, nor is Dutch society.

Once the dust settles from the current spat and relations between the two countries becomes normalised, people will understand how comparisons with 2014 Ukraine are not only facile but downright insulting to those who have died and continue to die in Donbass as a direct result of the coup.

 

 

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