Recent developments in German-Turkey relations depicts deepen cracks within their liaison yet it can never be denied the visible importance both states have for each other. A need-based course of inter-state relationships gives a bleak picture but in this arena anything can take place can change the bilateral and regional dynamics. Rising Islamophobia in Germany and the alarming suspicion towards Germany within Turkey could mean trouble for NATO, EU, Syria and Great Power Politics because there will be many benefactors out to explore and exploit the vulnerabilities.

In the realm of international politics nothing is constant and history is witness to it. In fact the case is so, that in the great game of politics on a global stage, states are mere pawns to history and vice versa. This might be sound conflicting but it holds great relevance once the same states and their history spills over in the contemporary setting. This is what dictates the nature of the international system. Moreover this is also something which edicts the future prospects of the structure of the system as well the features of history.

To fit the German-Turk relations in this context would not be a great hassle then. The two states have managed to follow a need-based course of inter-state relationships. Though in the most recent of developments there are seen visible cracks within their liaison yet it can never be denied the visible importance both states have for each other. Of course some recent events give us a bleak picture but in this arena anything can take place.

Their relationship dynamics are not a phenomenon of the 20th century. In fact they date back to 16th century marked by 1700 and the vastly important alliance between the empires Prussia and Ottoman. This again was a very strategic alliance which weighed heavily due to the antagonism towards the Russian empire. Moreover in the 1800’s, it was Bismarck who saw the importance of superior cultural relations with the Turks which turned out to be a step closer to a solid alliance.

Though after the World War I there was some bitterness in their relationship, it was short lived and there followed a rapprochement carrying on till the World War II. Of course there were always certain factors which rendered the rapprochement shaky, but this shakiness never really took a serious turn. Of course there was some hesitance from the German side, as there is still today, towards Turk inclusion in the Union, but it was not of drastic consequences. Particularly in the phase of Schroder who in fact encouraged Turkish inclusion in the European Union and the bond was again normalized.

Without a doubt the two states have had sturdy relationships in most all dimensions. Be it military, political, economic or strategic. This is what actually what kept the two on the verge of a détente, the fact that so many focal points are in commonality. The datum that there have been exceptional trade relations between Turkey and Germany which also had somewhat of a shade onto the political relations, minus the EU conundrum. And an outstanding military cooperation which exceeds NATO because it is something that is deep rooted in the history of various wars. But just like the two converge on many points and dimensions, so they also diverge on some issues.

The Age of Merkel was perhaps the initial point out of which emerged a sense of new priorities and a new discourse which would dominate the type of relationship between the two states. And in such a way that it would bring forth a Manifest Destiny of Turk-German future. Similarly the tenure of Erdoğan marked another phase of this Destiny which is indeed perplexing. Not only did Germany see a new wave of nationalism and antagonism towards radical Islam which has actually become a notion quite alarming to Turkey. But also for Turkey, there have been many new changes incited by Erdoğan and his brandished vision of Pan-Turkism in the 21st Century. Despite the several points of high and low politics which gave Turkey-Germany an edge regarding their strategic compliance, the contrasting personalities, interests and policy stances among other factors have begun to mar and fade the compliance at a time when it could prove to be somewhat disastrous.

The foremost factor which the Age of Merkel brought in lieu of Turkey was perhaps the idea of EU inclusion. This factor itself had many protruding nodes and went on to disseminate the otherwise semi-stable state of affairs between the two states. The idea that Turkey needs to be a “true democracy” in every sense to join EU has been a bone of contention. The recent refugee influx and the clash of policies which followed afterwards in both states. This not only proved that the depth of the cracks is ever growing but also that there is somewhat of a clash of policies as well between them. And nothing proved more irreverent for both that there was a lingering shadow of general suspicion towards Turkey on the point of its new turn towards a frenzied notion of playing with fire due to their somewhat approachable posture towards ISIS.

To make matters worse, the German reluctance to come to terms with the idea of an authoritarian Turkey is all a part of a bigger game. Of course the easy-going stance of Germans towards a faction of Kurds put the rotten cherry on top because Turkey was not happy and did not see where Germany seeks to go with this. The very idea that in a time when the German-Turk relations were already queasy, Germans cancelled many rallies perpetrated by Turks for the diaspora within Germany in order to talk about the coming referendum became a bitter tangle. Of course no good ever came out because Erdoğan backlashed by claiming German policies to resemble those of ‘Neo-Nazis”. This was the beginning of a diplomatic clash which if overlooked could end up making the two long term allies, NATO partners and strategic partners heavily bitter towards each other.

If one relates the history with what is today, then the detail develops that though there had been some instability in the past but things were managed before. Then why is it that in today’s time, this small diplomatic scrimmage seems to have grave consequences. The idea is simple; today the EU is already standing on the brink of torpor, Turkey already has bitter rivalries going on with other states, both are NATO partners and responsible for sending forces to Syria, Germany might be going through a change if things are not taken care of and finally, Turkey—like it or not—might end up playing a big monopoly if the result of the referendum is decided pro Erdoğan.

Yet there are certain notions which bring about a hope for the otherwise blurry future. To begin with—without a doubt both states are relevant and really important for each other. As mentioned before, theirs is a need-based relation and if ever there is a need for solid relations, it is not. Second, the economic and trade value is too much for both and to add to it, the economic dynamics in both states might not really allow for a hostile and bitter relations with each other for a long time. Thirdly, the strategic value of Turkey particularly in terms of Russian affiliation and Syrian Conflict is imperative for Germany. Turkey is no doubt a state with its own set of significance in Middle East and Germany should not let it escape. Finally, the two states are not willing to admit that there is a larger sum of strategic leverage to be maneuvered by them.

On the contrary we see some points which make the blurry lines somewhat complex. This is not only a diplomatic struggle but one motivated by deep dogmatic cause. At one end there is Merkel and at the other, Erdoğan. This is more or less a clash of personalities at best. Secondly, and furthering the point—the clash of personalities is perpetuated by the general public of both states. It goes without saying that the German public has some resentment towards Turkey as an aftermath of the Turkish oil bargain with ISIS. This is furthered by the heightened Islamophobia and the Neo-Nazi comments. Reciprocally the very Islamophobia and antagonism towards Turkey on these terms antagonizes the Turk people towards the Germans.

Thirdly, German general elections are going to carry out soon and with Merkel’s position as somewhat shaky—this might prove to be a chain without a weak end. The same could be said about the referendum of Erdoğan. Not only will he gain certain out of the ordinary powers but with his already anti-West stance, this slight diplomatic tussle is what he really needs to prove his point. Finally, the fact that there is antipathy towards the Turkish diaspora and raging Islamophobia spurred by the idea of a Neo-Dictatorship in the face of Erdoğan is troubling to Germany. With the multiple bombings which have occurred in Turkey and even in Germany, there is a genuine lack of trust.

But it might be too soon to just appoint some whimsical Manifest Destiny for Turk-German relations. It must also be noted that Istanbul is actually stuck at a very odd place. In 2015 there was a similar diplomatic/political spat with Russia over the downing of the Russian plane. At that time it was considered that it might be the end of the road for the two states but somehow the rapprochement discourse was managed. This could either be a ‘history repeats itself moment’ where Turkey and Germany after some hostility come back to the refined road of rapprochement. Or things might actually get worse and there could be severance of political, military, strategic, economic and diplomatic relations for the two states.

Whatever may happen, the fate of EU, Germany and Turkey depends on it. Germany and Turkey need to quiver their way out of this symmetry-asymmetry paradox which irks their relationship. Of course, Germany will not tolerate the import of authoritarian propaganda within their state. Neither would Turkey tolerate the looming bitterness towards its population or leaders at the hands of the Germans. Once acknowledged that for Germany, Turkey is pertinent especially for the Syrian End Game and that for Turkey, Germany is a tight knot towards EU—there must be developed a way out of the diplomatic muddle.

Nonetheless it seems that the anomalies within this relationship rose out in the current era of unpredictability. There are large inconsistencies within the relationship dynamics but these are nothing too incredulous. Moreover the idea that history had its own sets of examples and lessons for Turkey and Germany it only seems fair that the diplomatic rift needs to be resolved before there comes out a serious end game. Given the infusion of globalization and unpredictability in the arena spurred by the rise of nationalism and wars which tangle the dissimilar states with similar goals if Turkey and Germany should get rid of their anomalies. Otherwise with the rising Islamophobia in Germany and the alarming suspicion towards Germany within Turkey could mean trouble for NATO, EU, Syria and Great Power Politics because there will be many benefactors out to explore and exploit the vulnerabilities.

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Amna Javed is PhD Scholar at School of Politics and International Relations, Quaid-e-Azam University, Islamabad. She is an expert on Middle Eastern politics with a focus on Turkey.