“Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has escalated an ugly war of words against his country’s NATO allies Germany and the Netherlands.
The reason is obvious:
Erdogan hopes picking a fight with Europe will increase support among nationalist-minded Turkish voters for a constitutional referendum on April 16
that, if passed, will expand his already considerable autocratic powers.
On March 5, Erdogan outrageously accused Germany of “Nazi practices”
after two Turkish ministers had to cancel appearances at two pro-Erdogan campaign events in Germany
when the government said it could not assure their safety.
Now Erdogan has trained his ire on the Netherlands, calling the Dutch “Nazi remnants”
after the Dutch officials stopped the Turkish foreign minister from landing there on Saturday for a rally in support of Erdogan
and escorted Turkey’s family minister out of the country on Sunday to prevent her from campaigning.
Erdogan then warned that the Netherlands would “pay the price” for its “shameless” treatment of Turkey’s foreign minister.
Turkey has advised the Dutch ambassador, who was out of the country, not to return to his post in Ankara.
Erdogan’s belligerent tactics may well benefit anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim candidates in the Netherlands
as voters in that country go to the polls on Wednesday, followed by elections in France in April and May, and elections in Germany in September.
On Monday, the Dutch far-right candidate Geert Wilders called for Turkey’s ambassador to be expelled from the Netherlands,
and he accused people waving Turkish flags at a rally on Saturday of “showing they are not Dutch, but Turkish.”
That view is antithetical to the open society Europe has long stood for.
Three million people of Turkish descent live in Germany,
and some 400,000 Turkish citizens live in the Netherlands.
The European Union is Turkey’s largest trading partner, and Turkey, like the bloc, needs a strong, united NATO.
The European Union issued a statement on Monday saying, “It is essential to avoid further escalation and find ways to calm down the situation.”
NATO’s secretary general, Jens Stoltenberg, said he “will encourage all allies to show mutual respect, to be calm and to have a measured approach.”
Mark Rutte, the Dutch prime minister, has extended an olive branch, saying,
“We will still try to de-escalate, but of course to de-escalate, it takes two to tango.”
The next move is yours.”