I was interested to see that NATO's military head is blaming Russia's President Putin for the 'refugee' crisis that's threatening to overwhelm Europe.
Vladimir Putin is purposefully creating a refugee crisis in order to “overwhelm” and “break” Europe, Nato’s military commander in Europe said today.
Gen Philip Breedlove, the Supreme Allied Commander Europe and the head of the US European Command, said that President Putin and Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad had “weaponised” migration through a campaign of bombardment against civilian centres.
"Together, Russia and the Assad regime are deliberately weaponising migration in an attempt to overwhelm European structures and break European resolve," Gen Breedlove told the Senate Armed Services Committee.
"These indiscriminate weapons used by both Bashar al-Assad, and the non-precision use of weapons by the Russian forces, I can't find any other reason for them other than to cause refugees to be on the move and make them someone else's problem," he said.
Russia’s ambassador to London, Alexander Yakovenko, acknowledged the link, writing on social media that the ceasefire in Syria involving Russian forces “will help alleviate the migration crisis in the EU”.
There's more at the link.
Putin has deployed some very intelligent strategies in response to Europe's opposition to his expansionism in Ukraine and his threats (overt and covert) to the Baltic states. If he has, indeed, deliberately aggravated the refugee crisis, it's been very effective on several levels.
- It puts enormous pressure on Turkey, which has opposed Russian involvement in Syria because this threatens Turkey's fundamentalist Muslim client movements. Those movements have, in turn, been funneling illegal oil exports into Turkey, where the President's son is alleged to be buying the oil at bargain-basement prices, refining it, and selling it at full market price, making tens of millions of dollars for himself and his family. By attacking those movements and their oil shipments, Russia is undercutting the notoriously corrupt Erdogan family's income stream; and by forcing hundreds of thousands of refugees across the Turkish border, it's also putting enormous pressure on an already fragile Turkish society, riven by dissent between Islamists and secularists, and without the economic resources to cope with the refugee influx.
- Turkey, in turn, has been (and may still be) deliberately funneling hundreds of thousands of refugees through its territory to various European Union countries. This has placed impossible burdens on Greece, Macedonia and other Balkan nations, none of which offer attractive resettlement options for refugees, but all of which have to be transited before the latter can reach the more affluent, economically attractive countries of Western Europe. Russia has also helped Greece economically, after the latter country had to implement swingeing economic austerity measures demanded by the EU; so Greece's protests against Europe doing little or nothing to help it deal with the refugee crisis may be playing right into Putin's hands. The EU wants Greece to block the onward flow of refugees; but Greece can't afford to process, house or support them from its own resources. If it decides to simply let them all flow through its territory and onward to the rest of Europe, it'll be a deluge. (Meanwhile, Turkey has used the situation to extort billions of dollars in aid from Europe.)
- While Europe is bogged down trying to deal with (so far) more than a million 'refugees' (many of whom aren't refugees at all, but economic migrants disguising themselves as refugees in order to claim asylum), it doesn't have the time, energy or resources to address the ongoing crisis in the Ukraine and the Baltic States, where Russia is basically (and literally) getting away with murder. The refugee crisis buys Putin time to finish his annexation of more Ukrainian territory, whereupon he can present Europe and the rest of the world with a fait accompli. If Europe insists on continued sanctions against Russia, he can not-so-subtly ensure that the refugee crisis gets worse instead of better - and Europe is in no shape to cope with that.
- Russia is working to bolster the Assad regime in Syria. In doing so, it's established a three-way alliance between itself, Syria and Iran. Iran, in turn, is buying massive quantities of weapons from Russia. At the same time, the alliance in Syria strengthens Iran's hand in dealing with the controversy over its nuclear program, and the sanctions imposed against it by Europe and the USA. Even if those sanctions were to be reimposed, Iran's already much stronger; and if it makes itself a proxy state for Russia in the Middle East, along with Syria, it'll basically have bought itself shelter against their worst effects.
- Finally, the whole mess shows up the utter impotence of the Obama administration, which has done nothing to stop or deter President Putin from doing precisely and exactly as he pleases.
One may not like President Putin's motives or actions, but I have to take my hat off to him. He's playing the situation like a professional gambler in a game of poker, and right now he seems to hold most of the cards.