In February 2016, Kurdish Question published leaked minutes from a meeting between President Erdoğan and the EU’s two top officials – Jean-Claude Juncker and Donald Tusk – which took place in November 2015.
It was clear from the encounter that Erdoğan was using the refugee crisis in Europe as a means of blackmailing the EU and stopping it from intervening in the Turkish State’s anti-Kurdish war. He told Tusk, for example:
We can open the doors to Greece and Bulgaria anytime and we can put the refugees on buses… So how will you deal with refugees if you don’t get a deal? … You will be confronted with more than a dead boy on the shores of Turkey. There will be 10 or 15 thousand. How will you deal with that?
As previously suspected, the minutes showed that the EU had intentionally delayed a report on Turkey until after the November 2015 elections, which saw the AKP use corruption, repression and terror to keep power. Juncker said:
I’d like to remind you that we postponed the Turkey progress report till after the election. We were criticised for this… We postponed the report because you wanted us to. I thought you wanted to reconcile with the EU, now I feel tricked.
Selahattin Demirtaş confirmed Juncker’s suspicions, saying in early March 2016:
I believe that [Erdoğan] does not intend to solve the refugee crisis. He is using this to blackmail the European Union
Silently cautious about Turkey’s war since July 2015, the EU began to speak out more and more as a result of rising tensions with Erdoğan and increased attention in the media. In January 2016, for example, it called for an immediate ceasefire in the country.
In late March, former Pentagon official Michael Rubin captured the West’s growing unease with Erdoğan’s authoritarianism in an article at the American Enterprise Institute. He suggested that a coup against the Turkish President may be on the cards, and that it may be necessary in order to stop a further escalation of the Turkish-Kurdish war:
if the Turkish military moves to oust Erdoğan and place his inner circle behind bars, could they get away with it? In the realm of analysis rather than advocacy, the answer is yes…
Should a new leadership engage sincerely with Turkey’s Kurds, Kurds might come onboard… most of [Erdoğan’s] friends — both internationally and inside Turkey — are attracted to his power. Once out of his palace, he may find himself very much alone… like Saddam Hussein at his own trial.
Vice President for Research at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, Jonathan Schanzer, also spoke of the increasing distance between Turkey and the USA, saying:
Nobody really wants Turkey to go, after years of military investments and tireless alliance building. But it’s getting harder and harder to justify.
In short, the more Erdoğan tests his allies’ patience with erratically authoritarian actions, the more he risks severing the ties with the West that have helped to keep him in power for so long in the first place.