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November 22, 2019
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Commentary: Time for a European Union Army

13.10.2019 15:19
Kurdish refugees in 2015. (PHOTO:  Czech Television)
Kurdish refugees in 2015. (PHOTO: Czech Television)

Donald Trump has left the Kurds hanging out to dry after they fought alongside US soldiers against the terrorists from the so-called Islamic State, recalling the US Army from the north of Syria and thereby evacuating the field so Turkish dictator Erdogan can wage his own war there instead. What does this and other behavior of Trump's mean for the Czech Republic and the European Union?

Trump's Turkey

The entire world apart from Russia has condemned this - Putin has just called on the Turks to respect Syria's territorial integrity, or in other words, sent this message:  Go ahead and drive out the Kurds, but the entire area must continue to belong to Syria. Otherwise, rare agreement on this issue is prevailing both here in the Czech Republic and worldwide.

US legislators, including most Republicans, do not like either Erdogan's or Trump's approach, which has been condemned by the European Union as a whole, separately by Germany, Great Britain and France, and after some initial waffling by Czech MP Andrej Babiš, also by the Government of the Czech Republic. All of the Czech parliamentary parties have also condemned it - not just the democratic ones, either, but even the Communists and the fascists in Okamura's SPD.

After the US President was bombarded by strong criticism from all sides, he threatened to "totally destroy and obliterate" the economy of Turkey if Ankara were to do anything that he in his "infinite wisdom" considered to cross a certain line in response to the withdrawal of US soldiers from Syria. This was just another stupid cry on Twitter through which Trump "does politics".

It probably never occurred to Trump who would bear the consequences if he were to subvert or even completely destroy the economy of Turkey. If he meant this just as a threat as part of his usual "negotiation" methods, then Turkey does not have to take it seriously - and is not, as the first dead civilians and Kurdish soldiers killed by its attack already prove.

Because of Trump's misguided withdrawal of US soldiers from the Kurdish area of Syria, neighboring countries including Israel are now endangered. The Syrian war can further impact events throughout all of that very unstable region, including the unleashing of more armed conflicts among parties who are already ravaged by war as it is.

Turkey, during the entire time of the Syrian civil war, has been doing business and otherwise collaborating with the terrorists from the so-called Islamic State, and it cannot be ruled out that Erdogan would now aid ISIS with re-acquiring Syrian territory. Already today, "thanks" to the Turkish invasion, terrorists from that organization are fleeing prison.

Erdogan's Kurds

According to Erdogan, the Kurds of Syria are just as much terrorists are as the Kurds of Turkey - but there is no evidence that his allegations are true. On the contrary, the Kurds of Syria have been combating the terrorists (with whom Erdogan, on the contrary, has been collaborating) and defeated them.

Not all of the Kurds in Turkey are terrorists either, exactly as not all Basques, Germans, Irish, Italians, Muslims, etc., are terrorists. Moreover, the Turks have allowed themselves to be manipulated by their dictators all throughout their history.

One hundred years ago, the Ottoman Empire committed genocide against the Armenians, a fact Turkey aggressively denies to this day. If the Turks are currently chasing the Kurds out of Syria as part of ethnic purges, or killing them off, they will once again just double down or justify their actions through demagogic arguments.

The rest of the world will accept the situation despite initial protests - the politics of appeasement is unfortunately deeply rooted in Europe. The most recent example of that are the constant attempts by some politicians from EU countries to improve relations with Russia, politicians who no longer consider the Russian occupation of Crimea and Donbas an obstacle.

The USA is becoming an unreliable ally

The United States, under the leadership of Trump, is becoming a very unreliable ally. European countries can no longer rely on the USA to guarantee their security - that would, given Trump's incompetence, be too big of a risk to take, it would be irresponsible toward the citizens of Europe.

Turkey's behavior is slowly pushing it out of NATO - if that organization wants to preserve the democratic values it was created to defend. It is, therefore, time to build a European Army.

This would take less work than it might seem at first glance. We could begin by having the European parts of NATO undertake more exercises together than before and collaborate more on counter-intelligence and intelligence activities, on cybernetic preparations for conflict, on military research, and on training with common (compatible) armaments.

By doing this, the United States would be sidelined within NATO, and it would just be up to them which way to go: To return to democracy and its values, or to continue in this absolutely dictatorial, incompetent, Trumpian mode that ignores their allies' lives. Removing Trump from the throne is currently Europe's number one security interest.

However, even if the US administration or the US electorate managed to do that, a politician of the same or similar caliber could succeed him. The EU must be strong enough to arrange for its own security.

Of course, without a strong army, that won't happen. This is just about whether the EU Member States will be able to make a political decision that would facilitate the introduction of a common army, or rather, whether the nationalist/populist Governments heading the Visegrad 4 countries would accede to it.

A slightly different version of this commentary was first published in Babylon magazine in Czech.

František Kostlán, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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Armáda, Donald Trump, EU, Turkey



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