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Top US General: Refugee Crisis Likely to Galvanize Europe in Syrian Conflict


FILE - Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey testifies during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on "Counter-ISIL Strategy" on Capitol Hill in Washington, July 7, 2015.

FILE - Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey testifies during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on "Counter-ISIL Strategy" on Capitol Hill in Washington, July 7, 2015.

The top U.S. general says the Syrian refugee crisis likely will galvanize more European action to help end that nation’s bloody struggle.

“Will at some point Europe have to become more involved in the Syrian conflict because of the spillover effects? I think the answer is probably yes,” Gen. Martin Dempsey, U.S. chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Sunday. He was speaking to VOA enroute to Tallinn, Estonia, from a NATO defense meeting in Istanbul, Turkey.

The general compared the human suffering of the more than 10 million refugee and displaced Syrians to the refugee crisis in 1994 caused by the Bosnian War, which was the last time European countries agreed to absorb such large numbers of people seeking asylum.

Bosnian War

In 1991 and 1992, Yugoslavia’s disintegration under the pressures of ethnic conflict, economic and political issues triggered the secessions of Slovenia, Croatia and Bosnia. The resulting warfare and widespread “ethnic cleansing” by Serbian forces sent millions fleeing their homes.

According to Gen. Dempsey, that war’s refugee flow “galvanized the political leaders of Europe to realize they not only had to treat the symptom of the unrest in the Balkans, which was the refugees, they actually had to address the source.”

“And that’s what got NATO eventually involved in the Balkans,” he said.

If Europe decides to address the current crisis at its source, the general explained the problem would not only be a border control and humanitarian issue, but a military one that must be discussed by NATO defense leaders.

“We’ve got to have that conversation,” he said.

However, the general warned that military intervention without a reliable partner in Syria could create a “failed state,” leaving armed forces as the sole instrument of power.

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    Carla Babb

    Carla is VOA's Pentagon correspondent covering defense and international security issues. Her datelines include Ukraine, Turkey, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq and Korea.

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