Germany

Not the time for a 'kicking and stomping' over Incirlik

The Turkish government has again banned German lawmakers from visiting the country's military base at Incirlik. Markus Kaim, a defense expert, tells DW that Germany should not pull its soldiers out.

Türkei Ankara Bundestagsabgeordnete (picture-alliance/abaca/M. Kamaci )

DW: Turkey is blocking German lawmakers from visiting Germany's airbase in Incirlik. Is it now unavoidable to pull out German troops stationed there?

Markus Kaim: I wouldn't go that far. This is already the second time the German government has had to confront such a situation. The first time was in relation to the Bundestag's resolution on the Armenian genocide. Lawmakers were denied access for weeks to Incirlik. I think it is notable how severely the Bundestag, that is the legislative branch, has reacted while the government's reaction - that being the executive branch - has been comparably softer.

Perhaps too soft? Has the government made a serious mistake?

You can of course stomp your feet and make grand gestures by pulling out the troops there and moving them to Jordan. That doesn't change Turkey's strategic importance - first for operations against so-called "Islamic State" (IS) and second for the refugee situation. Also don't forget that peace in Syria is only possible with Turkey's involvement. That would explain why the government doesn't want to add any more fuel to the fire. I'd say this is not the time for grand gestures and kicking and stomping.

Germany conducts air sorties from the Incirlik airbase over IS regions. Does the German-Turkish spat complicate missions against IS?

Dr. habil. Markus Kaim (Markus Kaim)

Kaim is a Senior Fellow at the German Institute for International and Security Affairs

I don't think Germany's involvement in the anti-IS coalition has been seriously called into question. It makes no difference if Germany participates from Turkey, Jordan or wherever else. The danger is greater for Turkish-German relations. I don't see a weakness in resolve against IS.

Many observers see the visiting ban as a tit-for-tat response to Germany accepting Turkish soldiers' asylum applications. What is the appropriate response?

The German government can do little more than point out that it is abiding by its own rule of law. It is the German judiciary, not the government, that handles asylum cases. That means the government has its hands tied, and it finds itself in good company: To date, only a single Turkish officer, threatened with trial, has been returned to Turkey - from Bulgaria. All other NATO allies have positions similar to Germany's.

So German politics has to get used to Turkish provocations without being able to do anything about them?

The expectation that German-Turkish relations would continue without mishap following the April 16 referendum was a little premature. The renewed ban on visiting Incirlik is evidence that the Turkish government has a long memory. It's an indication that tensions between the two countries' security cooperation can continue to grow because Turkey is pursuing a new foreign policy. It isn't necessarily turning away from the West, but does seek stronger cooperation with non-Western governments, in particular Russia. That's made clear from weapons procurement and diplomatic cooperation. Things are happening that Turkey hasn't done before. Turkey's foreign policy seems to be following the principle that Western demands will no longer be accepted because there are alternatives.

Markus Kaim is a Senior Fellow at the German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP). He specializes in security and defense policy, in particular with regard to multinational military operations.

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