Just as we said he would from the start, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has attempted to weaponize the refugee/migration crisis to the detriment of Greece. He has done so without qualms, even threatening Europe. His plan has failed, though, because the Greek government responded in an unorthodox manner, by differentiating between what was clearly a typical humanitarian crisis in 2015 and what is now a well-planned operation to push thousands of refugees and migrants into Europe, with Ankara’s explicit blessings.
The Europeans will illustrate whether they stand in solidarity with Greece today. It will be on a symbolic level only, which is important, but is it enough? The Germans and the rest of the Europeans are completely confused. They view the situation in Syria as an opportunity to draw Erdogan away from Russian President Vladimir Putin and bring him back into the embrace of NATO and the West. US President Donald Trump is hoping to accomplish the same thing, which is why his comments about the Turkish president are either lackluster or convey understanding for his positions.
As far as German Chancellor Angela Merkel is concerned, she is absolutely terrified of the refugee/migration issue and just wants it to go away – by throwing a lot of money at the problem. She doesn’t care whether the burden lands entirely on Greece’s shoulders or not, as long as it doesn’t become a political nightmare for her again.
It is hard to see a solution to the explosive situation that is developing. One European official with behind-the-scenes insight recently said that no one can influence Erdogan anymore, not even Putin. Merkel supports Erdogan’s demand for a safe zone inside Syria, where he dreams of Turkish construction firms building refugee cities with European money. There are those who believe this may be a way out of the present crisis.
For the time being, though, the national policy line being pursued by the Greek government is the only one that could possibly wake up the Europeans without destabilizing the country. It does, of course, demand caution. Erdogan would love to see Greeks at each other’s throats. The danger of a new far-right force emerging and seeking to take matters into its own hands (perhaps even armed hands) is real and should be dealt with forthright. Let’s not forget that the state will have to proceed at some point with building new closed and open camps on mainland Greece, something that appears politically impossible right now.
These are issues that can be addressed tomorrow, however. What’s important now is to stand up to the blackmail and to form a united national policy.