Germany and the rest of Europe are desperate for solutions to the Syrian Refugee Crisis and the political backlash it has inspired. To this end, the European Union is rightfully turning to Turkey, which serves as a gateway to Europe thanks to its lengthy border with Syria. As Turkey is a NATO member, the European-Middle Eastern nation is also the frontline for Westerners to the Islamic State threat and the Russian Intervention Crisis. Although the role of Turkey is unavoidable, there are major problems with Turkey’s current leader President Recep Tayyip Erdogan that cannot simply be ignored out of necessity.
Unfortunately, it appears European and Turkish political leaders see the issues before them as largely political in natural, so they are driven to seek political solutions. For Erdogan, the ability to attract European dollars and homage is a means of garnering voter support at a time when his position is threatened by upcoming elections. Although the need for money to help support millions of Syrian refugees is very real, it appears Erdogan is using the situation to force Europeans to open their borders to Turks and write a “blank check” with very little oversight into how the money is spent or how Turkey plans to actually solve the refugee crisis.
European leaders appear to have no idea how to address the political backlash inspired by the tide of Syrian refugees arriving at their doors. If not for the political pressure, they would probably be able to find a temporary housing solution then turn their attention to dealing with the Syrian Civil War. Like all politicians, they have done the calculations and discovered the easiest answer is to subcontract the problem to Turkey. In turn, Turkey’s solution will most likely be to close its borders to people, which means preventing Syrians from fleeing a war zone. In the end, Turkey will be criticized by European leaders for the human rights violations, but they will have a solution that pacifies both those who see aiding the Syrian refugees as a responsibility and those who would do anything to keep Syrians out of Europe.
Quite frankly, this political solution is no solution. It is Europe avoiding a problem and trying to save face. In the long run, this will create far greater problems for Europeans in addition to the Syrian People and the other Peoples of the Middle East. Not only will it incite further anti-Western sentiments, it will drive Syrian refugees into weak Middle Eastern countries and help entrench Erdogan as the leader of Turkey. Because Ergodan has become an unstable and unreliable leader, this means Turkey’s policies will continue to reflect his shortcomings. With Turkey playing such a pivotal role in efforts to deal with Syrian Refugee Crisis, the Islamic State, the Syrian Civil War, and now Russia, the West cannot afford to support his self-serving, self-destructive political agenda.
Increasingly authoritarian in nature, allegations that the Erdogan government intentionally neglected the Islamic State to suppress Turkey’s Kurdish population marked a new low for the Turkey in late 2014. Since then, Erdogan has launched strikes against the Islamic State, but he has also chosen to rekindle the war with the PKK. Sadly, the Turkish government has spent decades disempowering their Kurdish minority. Summer elections did reveal diminished support for President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) amid growing support for the Kurdish People’s Democratic Party (HDP), which had suddenly given Turkish Kurds ownership in their own government, until Erdogan pushed for new elections.
With that in mind, Turkey is a democracy, so the Turkish People will choose their leadership and Western powers must work with whomever Turkey chooses. Unfortunately, the West is not in a position to ignore Erdogan. Cooperation with Turkey does not, however, mean the West has to support Erdogan nor does it mean the West has to condone his policies. If Erdogan is reelected, he will likely use his position to pursue his political agenda and force Western powers to aid him in his efforts. Instead, Western powers need to rise above politics and deal with Erdogan by focusing on sound policies. This means there must be transparency and detailed accounting on how all military, financial, and other forms of aid offered to Turkey are used.
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