Turkey finds itself in an unenviable position at the moment. The nation is in the midst of a currency crisis that appears set to worsen before it improves. On its southern border Turkey is facing a new influx of refugees as Syrian government forces prepare to retake Idlib. On the international front, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been unable to get Russia, Syria, and Iran to agree to postpone the coming Idlib offensive. To complicate geopolitical matters even more, relations between Ankara and some of its closest allies such as the United States and Germany remain severely strained. This issue is bringing concerns about Turkey’s future role in NATO, and relationship with the European Union.
Right now, the situation in Idlib presents the biggest challenge for the Turkish government. A Syrian offensive in the near future will most likely bring a new wave of refugees to southern Turkey. There is widespread fear that more refugees will only serve to worsen the economic, and infrastructural problems in the area. Beyond this, there is the matter of what to do with the refugees as they arrive. The EU is no longer taking in refugees at the pace it was a few years ago. The welcome mat European powers extended to Syrian refugees in 2015 has become a political liability, and energized right-wing populists movements across the continent.
Those concerns played a large role in Erdogan’s trip to Tehran last week, and his request for a ceasefire. Russia, Iran, and Syria largely dismissed his concerns, though the fact that the Idlib offensive has yet to begin suggests Erdogan may have won a brief reprieve. The Turkish president is now warning European nations that the next wave of refugees will cause a new crisis for the Europe, as well as Turkey.
For the near future, Idlib will take the center stage. When the offensive begins there, Turkey could find its problems becoming worse at home and abroad, with Ankara able to do very little to influence the situation.