Wednesday December 11, 2019

German Parliament recognizes Armenian massacre of 1915 as ‘Genocide’

Turkey has had a history of violently rebutting any country deciding to recognize the Armenian crisis as a genocide

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Grand National Assembly of Turkey. Establishment of the national Parliament. Image source: Wikipedia
  • Raphael Lemkin, a Polish Lawyer, coined the term ‘Genocide’, and believes the first genocide was that of the Armenians by the Ottoman authorities
  • The Ottomans’ ruling Committee of Union and Progress planned to forcibly relocate the Armenians to the Arab parts of the Empire
  • This controversy dates all the way back to the First World War

German parliament passed an overwhelming resolution on Thursday June 2 to recognize the atrocities and mass killings meted out to Armenians in 1915 as Genocide. The resolution has further stirred up the already volatile atmosphere between Turkey and the European Union regarding how to handle the refugee crisis.

Turkey has had a history of violently rebutting any country deciding to recognize the Armenian crisis as a genocide. It withdrew its envoys from the Vatican and Austria after the Pope and Austrian lawmakers first used the word. Along similar lines, Turkey has now withdrawn its ambassador to Germany. United States of America and Israel have not yet made use of the term, only to protect the Turkish sentiment.

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This controversy dates all the way back to the First World War. Just a few years before the onset the war, the Young Turks seized power of the then powerful Ottoman Empire, which spanned North Africa, parts of Europe and the Middle East. The new rulers, who had pledged their allegiance to Germany and the Austro-Hungarian Empire believed they could conquer the Russian army and thus greatly weaken the Allied Forces, Britain, France and Russia.

Secularism in Turkey. Image source: Wikipedia
Secularism in Turkey. Image source: Wikipedia

Things didn’t play out to the best of their interests, and they lost to Russia. This loss created a distrust towards the Armenians. Historian Eugene Rogan tells NPR, “What happened was a small number of [Armenian] militants who did cross over to the Russian side, who did actively try and recruit Armenians to support the Russian cause, made life extremely dangerous for the majority of Armenian civilians who basically had no fight with anyone, did not wish to be drawn into any war and found themselves under tremendous pressure; soldiers who, suspected by their Turkish comrades, begin to get shot down.”

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The Ottomans’ ruling Committee of Union and Progress planned to forcibly relocate the Armenians to the Arab parts of the Empire, but things didn’t just end there. In the first of the killings, some 250 intellectuals and senior counselors of the Armenian community were rounded up and eventually murdered. This was the onset of a frenzy that ended in the death of 1.5 million Armenians.

Raphael Lemkin, a Polish Lawyer, coined the term ‘Genocide’, and believes the first genocide was that of the Armenians by the Ottoman authorities. It is natural for Turkey, which rose from the Ottoman Empire, to find it difficult admitting that the Armenian killings were indeed a genocide, but German Parliament speaker Norbert Lammert said, Turkey’s current government is not responsible for what happened 100 years ago, ‘but it shares responsibility for what happens with it in the future.’ It was important for Germany to acknowledge the massacre of Armenians since it shared responsibilities for the occurrence of the disaster as an ally to the then Ottoman Empire.

-by Saurabh Bodas, an intern at NewsGram. Twitter: @saurabhbodas96

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Advance Of Summit, NATO Pacify Trump

NATO also plans to consider a Franco-German proposal

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Flags of NATO member countries
Flags of NATO member countries are seen at the Alliance headquarters in Brussels, Belgium. VOA

As Britain prepares for the NATO leaders’ meeting outside London December 3-4, the alliance said Thursday it had agreed to redistribute costs and cut the U.S. contribution to its central budget.

NATO’s central budget is relatively small at around $2.5 billion a year, mostly covering headquarters operations and staff, and different than its defense budget. U.S. President Donald Trump often complains of inequitable burden-sharing, with only nine of the 29 member countries meeting the 2%  of gross domestic product target for the alliance’s defense spending.

Regarding the central budget, “The U.S. will pay less, Germany will pay more, so now the U.S. and Germany will pay the same,” NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said in Paris Thursday.

The United States currently pays about 22% of NATO’s central budget. Beginning 2021, both U.S. and Germany will contribute about 16%.

NATO also plans to consider a Franco-German proposal to create a working group of “respected figures” to discuss reform in the alliance and address concerns about its future.

The announcement to reduce the American contribution is seen as a move to placate Trump, who has considered withdrawing from the alliance but has since taken credit for its promised reforms.

“In 2016, only four allies spent 2%  of GDP on defense,” a senior administration official told reporters Friday, adding that there are now nine countries, including the U.S.,  meeting the 2% target, with 18 expected to do so by 2024.

“This is tremendous progress, and I think it is due to the president’s diplomatic work,” he said.

 U.S. forces from Syria, a move Trump made without consulting NATO
A convoy of U.S. vehicle is seen after withdrawing from northern Syria, on the outskirts of Dohuk, Iraq. VOA

Internal strife

Leaders of the 29 member states will attempt a show of unity during the summit but the alliance is facing questioning about its relevance and unity, particularly after the October withdrawal of U.S. forces from Syria, a move Trump made without consulting NATO.

“It’s exactly in the wake of that decision that you had [French] President [Emmanuel] Macron say what he said about the alliance being ‘brain-dead’ and referencing the lack of American leadership in the sense of leading in a community and not just going out on your own,” said Gary Schmitt, a NATO analyst with the American Enterprise Institute.

U.S. troops’ withdrawal from Syria prompted Turkey to launch an offensive against Kurdish YPG militia in northern Syria. The move spurred Macron to vent his frustration over what French diplomats say is NATO’s lack of coordination at a political level, and triggered fear among allies that the assault will undermine the battle against Islamic State militants.

Meanwhile, a simmering war between Russia and Ukraine has become the backdrop of Trump’s impeachment, with the American president allegedly having withheld hundreds of millions of dollars of military aid to pressure the Ukrainian government to announce an investigation of former Vice President Joe Biden, a Democratic presidential candidate running against Trump. Kyiv needs the aid to counter Moscow’s aggression.

The two conflicts in Europe’s eastern and southern flank further complicate Washington’s already-strained relations with other NATO members. Meanwhile, despite American efforts to reassure European leaders of Washington’s continuing commitment, anxiety about U.S. neglect of NATO under Trump persists, said Hans Kundnani, Senior Research Fellow in the Europe Program at Chatham House.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, welcomes NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, left, welcomes NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg during their meeting in Kyiv, Ukraine. VOA

Kundnani noted a series of American officials who have come to reassure Europeans not to take Trump’s tweets too seriously and focus on what is happening on the ground, particularly the military reinforcement of NATO’s eastern flank. Still, Kundnani said that in the last year Europeans have started to realize it’s “not really good enough” and they’re now facing the “reality of the of the crisis in NATO.”

“Some of them are hoping that Trump will be out of office in in a year’s time but the real fear is that Trump wins a second term,” said Kundnani, adding that some Europeans are hoping that “U.S. gradual withdrawal from Europe” might “snap back to the status quo ante if Trump is not re-elected.”

Diverging European responses

“The upcoming celebration of NATO’s 70th anniversary will be marked by important divisions within the alliance — not just across the Atlantic, but also within Europe,” said Karen Donfried, president of the German Marshall Fund of the United States.

In Paris, the view is “strategic autonomy,” said Donfried, with many in France concluding that Washington’s security guarantee can no longer be relied on. Warsaw is promoting “strategic embrace”  developing close bilateral relationship with Trump to guarantee its own security, while Berlin is advocating “strategic patience.”

Germany in the middle is a little bit divided between the “Atlanticists” and the “post-Atlanticists,”   Kundani said, adding that “Europeans are very much arguing” about these approaches.

Donfried said that against this backdrop, NATO allies are approaching the London summit with a sense of foreboding, knowing that they carry the responsibility to articulate alliance’s common purpose and ongoing relevance.

“If they don’t, [Russian President Vladimir] Putin will be raising a glass in Moscow to the fraught state of the alliance at 70,” she said.

Another summit goal for most European leaders, is to simply avoid a Trump flare-up, like those that have happened in past meetings.

NATO meetings
President Donald Trump meets with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson at the United Nations General Assembly, New York. VOA

Many have discovered this can be achieved through flattery. “They can talk about all the things that they’ve done and very smartly suggest that President Trump has generated the kind of pressure to make those things happen,” Schmitt said.

“They can actually praise President Trump, even though this is very hard for them to do because of the personality clashes.”

Many will be watching Trump’s encounters with Macron, including their bilateral meeting, as well as with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson. Johnson has pleaded for Trump to stay out of the upcoming British election during his London trip.

The senior administration official said that Trump is “aware of this” and “absolutely cognizant of not wading into other countries’ elections.”

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Other potential clashes are simmering too. Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said Friday that Emmanuel Macron’s NATO “brain-death” warning reflects a “sick and shallow” understanding, telling the French president “you should check whether you are brain dead.”

The French foreign ministry has summoned Turkey’s ambassador to Paris to protest the statement. (VOA)