Europe must unite to tackle countries with aggressive, expansive foreign policies - historian

Europe must unite as a free and independent federation and buffer against contending countries with imperialist foreign policies, such as Turkey, and prevent a Third World War, historian Eric Zuesse wrote in online analysis platform Modern Diplomacy on Monday.

European countries have the collective responsibility to lead in protecting the future of the world, otherwise face an inevitable WWIII scenario, he said.

Zuesse highlighted Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s efforts to restore the legacy of the Ottoman Empire – which at the height of its power controlled most of Southeastern Europe, Central Europe, West Asia, parts of Eastern Europe, the Caucasus, North Africa and the Horn of Africa – the latest being his order to convert Istanbul’s Hagia Sophia landmark into a mosque.

The Hagia Sophia was originally built as a cathedral of the Eastern Roman Empire in 537, but was converted into a mosque following the Ottoman conquest of Istanbul on May 29,1453. Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the founder of modern Turkey, had the site repurposed as museum in 1935.

Over the years, Erdoğan had repeatedly suggested turning the UNESCO World Heritage Site into a mosque again to fulfil a long-standing demand by Turkey’s Islamists, much to international protest.

The secularist Turkish Republic Atatürk instituted in 1923 has now decisively ended, Zuesse said, while “the widespread speculations that Erdoğan has been aiming to restore Turkey to being the imperial nation and ruler of a restored Islamic Ottoman Empire are now decisively confirmed”.

Throughout his tenure as Turkish head of state, Erdoğan has systematically chipped away at Turkey’s secular foundation by pressing a more Islamist-oriented agenda – within and outside the country.

Zuesse cited Turkey’s primarily military involvement in Syria and Libya, two countries in civil war that were once secular-ruled, as being “consistent with an understanding of Erdoğan in which his foremost objective is a restoration of the Ottoman Empire.”

Turkey backs Libya’s internationally recognised Government of National Accord, which has ties to the pan-Islamist Muslim Brotherhood, in a conflict with secular General Khaflia Haftar and his self-styled National Libyan Army. In Syria, Turkey has backed arm forces opposing Damascus, including jihadist groups frowned upon by the West.

Washington has supported Erdoğan’s restoration goal, according to Zuesse, but only within the scope of its own widely acclaimed imperialist policy.

However, the Turkish president does not intend his “restored Ottoman empire” to be a subordinate of the United States or any other country, thus creating a split between Ankara and the Washington, the historian said.