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Weekly Roundup (13 March-17 March)

Turkey suspends high-level diplomatic relations with Dutch

14 March 2017, Ankara, Turkey – CNN – In a dangerous move likely to inflame Turkey’s relations with Western Europe and vice versa, the Dutch government refused permission for the Turkish Foreign Minister to visit the port-city of Rotterdam where he was due speak at a rally in favour of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s April referendum to consolidate presidential authority.

Western Europe hosts a significant Turkish émigré community and most of these émigrés remain intensely politically aware of events back in their original homeland. Unfortunately for Western Europe, having brandished the prospect of EU membership in front of Turkey without seriously entertaining the notion, has spoiled relations between itself and Ankara. Not helped by the fact that President Erdogan has taken on an extremely autocratic bent since the 2016 Turkish coup attempt, trampling on Turkish civic and human rights and placing Turkey well outside of the ethical framework of the European Union.

Turkey has raised the prospect of reneging on its agreement with the EU on illegal migrants using Turkey as a gateway into Europe. Turkey has also sharpened its rhetoric against the West with President Erdogan calling the Dutch and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Nazis.

This is a particularly bad time for name calling with the rise of the political right throughout Western Europe taking on strong anti-Muslim and anti-Turkish overtones.

Considering that Turkey is a strategically important player in NATO, the likelihood of Turkey eroding its position within NATO, or of NATO calling for Turkey’s expulsion, is no longer mere fancy. This would destabilize Southeast Europe and alter that region’s balance of power for the worse.


Theresa May warns Sturgeon over referendum game

14 March 2017, London, United Kingdom – CNN – Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon called for a new referendum on Scottish independence.

She argues that there is great uncertainty regarding Scotland’s future under Brexit and wants the option of declaring Scotland independent, the implication being that the EU would absorb the Scottish state.

However, there is a flawed logic at play. Sturgeon thinks that Brussels will welcome a chance to adopt Scotland and land a blow to London in the process. The flawed logic is that should Scotland succeed in a second referendum and get their freedom from ‘English rule’, it would signal the potential breakup of other large states within the EU community.

The French have the restive Bretons; the Spanish have the Basques and the Catalans, both eager to move out from under Madrid’s influence; there are the Friulian people of northeast Italy and many more potential ethnic insurrections throughout Western Europe.

It is highly unlikely that Brussels will welcome the administrative mess of multiple ethnic nationalisms as it would fundamentally alter the internal dynamics of the EU and the organization’s internal balance of power.


US and South Korea conduct military drills

14 March, Seoul, South Korea – CNN – The annual US-RoK military drills have yet again shifted international focus to the Korean peninsula and rattled the leadership of the Kim dynasty of North Korea. North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un was quick to condemn the exercises, in spite of the fact that the nature of these exercises have not changed in a very long time.

What had changed however, was Washington’s decision to deploy the Terminal High Altitude Air Defense system (THAAD) to South Korea.

Ostensibly deployed to help monitor, and if necessary intercept North Korean missiles fired in anger at South Korea and Japan, the Chinese, uncomfortable allies with North Korea against the US-led international order in Northeast Asia, see THAAD not as a missile system aimed squarely at Pyongyang’s arsenal, but as a highly capable anti-missile system that could erode China’s own ballistic missile fleet and nuclear deterrent.

It is unlikely that the Americans will withdraw THAAD now that it is in South Korea, unless behind the scenes negotiations with the Chinese compel them to. But such a negotiated position would need some form of Chinese concession, perhaps in the South China Sea. As tensions are running high between Beijing and Washington, this appears unlikely in the near-term. To counter this, Pyongyang may choose to accelerate its long distance missile program and the miniaturization of its nuclear warheads. As for China, they may seek Russian assistance to build in countermeasures against THAAD within its existing ballistic missile fleet and may also choose to expand the fleet’s size in order to fortify Beijing’s nuclear deterrent, especially its second strike capability.


Turkey partially blocks NATO projects, including military drills

16 March 2017, Moscow, Russia – RT – An interesting piece in the Russian state media outlet, RT, claimed that the Turkish government had put a halt to some NATO activities as a consequence of the cancellation of Turkish political rallies in various European countries in favour of Erdogan’s referendum on strengthening his power as president. If true, the idea of Ankara maintaining itself within Europe’s military structure under Erdogan seems bleak. Political tensions between Ankara and many European capitals are at an all-time low. If indeed Turkey does find itself ousted from NATO, what it will do as a modern industrial state with an ongoing ethnic insurgency within its own borders (the Kurds), and linked to Kurdish activities in neighboring Syria and Iraq, is anyone’s guess.

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