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Confronting Europe’s Illiberals

The European Union's credibility already suffers when its leaders hold ambiguous attitudes toward Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Russian President Vladimir Putin, and US President Donald Trump. But continuing to waver over full-fledged autocrats, like Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, will have even more serious costs.

BRUSSELS – European politicians have mastered the art of wagging their finger, most recently at Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Russian President Vladimir Putin, and US President Donald Trump. Sadly, the same cannot be said for our ability to formulate political solutions and implement common policies.

The refugee crisis has shaken Europe to its core, because, rather than taking collective responsibility for managing the flood of migrants and refugees into Europe, we have mostly shifted the burden to frontline countries. This has eroded European solidarity. Likewise, our inability to come together to stop Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s war crimes against his own people has left a void that Putin and Iran have filled.

European leaders too often shout from the sidelines when they should be on the field, acting to defend common European interests. And as if our failure to ensure stability in our own neighborhood was not enough, we have also allowed right-wing populist and nationalist movements to take off within the European Union itself. These movements, actively fomented by Russia, have produced homegrown political leaders who frighteningly – but not surprisingly – resemble Putin and Erdoğan.

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