A meme being pushed by people like George Soros and John McCain is that Vladimir Putin is somehow controlling or using the refugee crisis to attack the European Union. But a more plausible conspiracy theory would be that the string puller of the migrant mess is really Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
First, Erdogan probably doesn’t get enough blame for his blundering contributions to the horror of the Syrian civil war. After a decade of pretty sensible Islamist rule, during the Arab Spring, Erdogan let his ego get the better of his judgment and turned against Assad of Syria, calling for his overthrow and opening his Syrian border to supplying rebels. Apparently, Erdogan thought Assad would go as easily as the dictator of Tunisia and he could get credit for the downfall of a nasty, unloved regime, making Erdogan the moral leader of the Muslim world. But Erdogan underestimated just how viciously the Assad regime would fight to stay in power.
This has had all sorts of bad repercussions for Turkey, such as reigniting his government’s civil war with its Kurdish minority, which Erdogan (who is the brother in law of an Iraqi Kurdish leader) had previously done much to dampen.
Not surprisingly, Erdogan is also trying to exploit Merkel’s Boner for Turkey’s self-interest. From the NYT:
Facing Migrant Crisis, E.U. Makes a Dubious Deal With Turkey
By STEVEN ERLANGER MARCH 10, 2016
LONDON — More and more, it seems that the European Union wants President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey to replace Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi as the guardian of European shores against the flow of migrants from the Middle East and North Africa.
It was Colonel Qaddafi, the former Libyan strongman, who, before Europe and the United States helped to overthrow him, had an agreement with Italy to keep migrants from its shores. In 2010, visiting Silvio Berlusconi, then the Italian prime minister, Colonel Qaddafi demanded 5 billion euros, then about $6.6 billion, a year to continue to stem the tide. Otherwise, he said, Europe would become “another Africa” as a result of the “advance of millions of immigrants.”
“Tomorrow,” he added, “Europe might no longer be European and even black, as there are millions who want to come in.”
Colonel Qaddafi got his money.
But then, Hillary, with her black thumb, managed to blow that up the next year with her air war on Libya.
Now it is the European Union, prodded by a beleaguered Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany and overwhelmed by 1.3 million asylum seekers last year, that is desperate to deter as many migrants as possible.
Their instrument of necessity is Mr. Erdogan, who, like Colonel Qaddafi before him, has a price, and knows how to bargain. As Marta Dassu, the former Italian deputy foreign minister and senior director for Europe for the Aspen Institute, put it: “Erdogan keeps locking and unlocking the door as it pleases him.”
Already, the European Union has promised Mr. Erdogan €3 billion. This week, in a sweeping deal still to be confirmed by European leaders, the bloc promised him at least twice as much, along with the prospect of visa-free travel for Turks and an acceleration of Turkey’s application to join the union — a process begun nearly 30 years ago, in 1987.
Would Turkey get full immigration rights under accession, the way Poland, Romania and Bulgaria have? There are 75 million people in Turkey. And, the Anatolians tend to be a lot harder to assimilate into rich European countries than are Christian Eastern Europeans. They’ve generally been less trouble than Arabs and Pakistanis, but not much of a success story either.
In return, Turkey has agreed to take back every illegal migrant reaching the shores of Europe. That would have an immediate impact on the 2,000 a day now reaching Greece, but it is also meant to discourage others contemplating the trip. Turkey will keep the migrants while they are screened, adding to the more than 2.5 million already in Turkish camps, and return those who don’t qualify to their country of origin. For every Syrian migrant returned to Turkey, Europe must accept a Syrian migrant now in Turkey who qualifies as a refugee.
Huh? That sounds novel. Maybe it will work, but it sounds doubtful. It sounds like something that a byzantine bureaucracy could game.
But there is another kind of price to be paid by the European Union, reminiscent of the deal done with Colonel Qaddafi. The main cost is to European values.
Even as European leaders met, the Turkish government seized the popular newspaper Zaman, which has been fiercely critical of Mr. Erdogan’s rule, and replaced its journalists with pro-regime hacks. Turkey has also continued to crack down on the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, which Ankara regards as a terrorist organization, under the pretext of fighting President Bashar al-Assad of Syria.
Erdogan’s career is a good example of the wisdom of term limits.