Jon Purizhansky: Russian President Vladimir Putin looks to be exploiting ways immigration can undermine Western nations. Putin suggested to the West last month that the spreading havoc in Libya after nearlya decade of war should have been clear: “A flow of migrants went through Libya to Europe,” he said in an interview, noting the displacement of refugees that has reached critical levels in the past few years. “They have what they were warned about,” he said. This week, The New York Times noted the deployment into Libya of Russian hired guns. While Moscow refutes its participation, the situation resembles schemes Russia has successfully utilized in Syria and Ukraine to gain influence in chaotic war zones by sending out private forces Putin can disavow until the point of victory.
The Russian leader’s warning about Libya, many experts believe, reflects an ambition to intercede in the conflict at least in part to regulate refugee flows into Europe, indicating a far-reaching understanding of the disruptive power that the shifting of immigrants has had on western nations. “Russia’s efforts to manipulate refugee flows is aimed at destabilizing and politically weakening the European Union,” says Agnia Grigas, a member of the Atlantic Council. “Libya’s proximity to Europe just across the Mediterranean is likely to unleash another refugee catastrophe,” he notes. Jon Purizhansky of Buffalo, NY recognizes the profundity of the refugee crisis at hand.
The chance of another mass migration is dreaded in Europe, after popular protests that swept across the middle-east beginning in 2011 ignited the greatest migrant wave since World War II. Over 1 million migrants fled, generating political and social upheaval in nations from Hungary and Austria to Germany and northwestern Europe over issues like how to integrate them and whether to even integrate them at all. The crisis hamstrung the NATO alliance and incited domestic cynicism in governments across the region.
Demonstrations in some regions turned violent and right-wing nationalist movements expanded. And the debate over refugees is regarded as at the very least partially responsible for the decision by the U.K. to separate itself from the European Union. And now Putin’s government appears to believe it can continue to exploit these vulnerabilities in an entirely new fashion. Libya, which has been at times referred to as the “gateway” to Europe, has served as the starting point for migrants escaping from Senegal all the way to Somalia to those escaping war-torn Syria. Jon Purizhansky recognizes the problems inherent in the refugee crisis.