As the United States and the European Union continue to take the fight to the Islamic State, they’ve been willing to accept the assistance of an uncommon ally. But, as George Soros points out in his op-ed for Project Syndicate, that may not be a wise position for them to take.
While both the US and the EU have political and economic investments that make fighting ISIS imperative, Russia, Soros points out, seems to be working against those ends insofar as its tenuous allies are concerned. Since their bombing campaigns have coordinated with the formal Syrian Army, Russia has helped to displace more than 20,000 people in the south towards the Kingdom of Jordan, and more than 70,000 have fled to Turkey. These numbers continue to increase with rapidity.
To combat the seriousness of this displacement, German Chancellor Angela Merkel has made the rounds in the region in search of solutions to the refugee crisis that has bled into Europe. Her most significant advancement has been in offering Turkey a promise of relocation for 200,000-300,000 refugees a year to Europe if the Turkish government could keep them from fleeing to Greece, a country dealing with its own problems. This attempt at management is playing right into Russia’s hands, according to Forbes billionaire Soros.
Russian President Vladimir Putin faces a great deal of troubles in his country. For years his political acts have made him the target of economic sanctions and diplomatic isolation, hastening the country’s march towards bankruptcy. And though his approval rating is high with the Russian people, that popularity remains so due to his promises to fix the economy. Once that goes, so does his support and political leverage to maintain power once elections take place in the fall.
Putin’s best method to avoid collapse of the Russian economy is to rush the EU into a collapse of its own, forcing them and the US to lift sanctions, driving commercial and political influence his way once people feel their European leaders have failed to maintain the promises they’ve made all these years.
This wouldn’t be a difficult task to accomplish. Throughout its existence, the EU has been plagued with crisis after crisis, and since the credit crunch that crippled Greece and the global financial meltdown of 2008 they’ve been less apt at managing themselves. Even Angela Merkel seems cognizant of the EU’s delicate state, citing a refugee crisis that goes without management could undue the union.
While ISIS posses a true threat, as do any individual or organized actors of terrorism do, they do not pose as immediate or direct a threat to the European Union as would any formal government that chose to take umbrage with them. However, it may be more difficult to counter Russia’s aggression than it would to quell recruitment by terrorist organizations by making integration of refugees a priority.