Europe faces a migration crisis unlike ever before in history, of an exceptional magnitude and character. Migration and jihadism are used as weapons of blackmail not just by an adversarial Russia but a supposed ally in Turkey, and partners in East Europe.
By Mitchell Blatt and Sumantra Maitra*
For those who make a career out of observing and analyzing international relations, the Munich security conference is a surreal experience. A lot changed since the passive aggressive rupture in 2007 by Vladimir Putin, in front of a stunned and a little dismissive European audience, and the world has come a long way since then. Russia pummeled Georgia, annexed Crimea, divided Ukraine, and intervened in Syria.
Europe faces a migration crisis unlike ever before in history, of an exceptional magnitude and character. Migration and jihadism are used as weapons of blackmail not just by an adversarial Russia but a supposed ally in Turkey, and partners in East Europe. The liberal world order has crashed, and history has returned with a vengeance. Not everything has changed, of course… Stop the War, Code Pink and Global Research Canada still blames Western imperialism. Ed Snowden and Glenn Greenwald still think intelligence-gathering and espionage in times of war are totally outdated and provocative policies, a view shared (rhetorically, at least) by Ted Cruz, for some reason. Donald Trump proudly touts his support from Putin and pledges to buddy up to him in return, while Trump’s supporters comment on Facebook that at least they think an autocratic tyrant who is behind the deaths of dissidents is better than President Obama. Trump defended him, on the grounds that, “the U.S. kills people, too,” and “there’s no evidence” he has killed a journalist, but it doesn’t matter, because even if he did start shooting people on Fifth Avenue, they would still support him. Mitt Romney was mocked in 2012 for stating that Russia was America’s“biggest enemy.” Obama painted him as an out-of-touch old hawk who didn’t know the Cold War ended decades ago. Just this February, Russian PM Dimitry Medvedev, said, “We are in a new Cold War.”
So are we or are we not in a new cold war? And if we are, how big is Putin’s Russia a threat to the West, and how to deal with it?
Well…the question itself is complicated, and the key is in the wording. While news outlets that printed Medvedev’s quote used capital letters for “Cold War,” as if it were a proper noun, it is indisputable that we are in a cold war—not like the one between America and Russia, but a geo-political battle of a different scale. No matter how much German foreign minister tries to Germansplain Medvedev’s remarks, there is no questioning that is true. Russia is a shadow of the former Soviet self and simply lacks the capability for global political, military, economic and ideological confrontation. However, that doesn’t make it any less important, because unlike last time, the West is not united. Many in Western Europe and the U.S. and Canada are complacent and accommodating this time around. But for the Baltic countries and Ukraine, they are in big trouble, and they know it.
To deal with this new development, we need to understand and more importantly accept that we’re in a geo-political conflict. Here’s how.
Firstly, West must admit that we are in one era of massive conflict and not try to play word salad. To accept the fact that there is no easy way out, and it is not going to end anytime soon. The enemy gets a vote, and if the Kremlin decides we’re in a Cold war, we’re in one…regardless of whether we want or not.
Second, West must bolster defense and force Europe to pay for their security, intelligence, surveillance and monitoring and border policing. It is not the job of British and American taxpayers to pay for the security of East Europe, when they don’t even keep up with NATO demands to spend 2 percent of their GDP on their own security and instead have lavish populist social welfare programs. If they are afraid of Russia, they should take the lead to stop it.
Third, the West needs to bolster their engagement in PR/propaganda in in countering the Kremlin’s propaganda. Russia is doing it, and unilateral disarmament won’t work. They have Russia Today and Sputnik putting their message out to the West and funding “anti-war” groups and have influenced much Western isolationist opinion. The “leave Syria to Russia” crowd certainly buys into their arguments. It’s time to identify Western activists and “useful idiots,” along with active Russian agents, who spread propaganda on Facebook and Twitter and comments boards and forums. Reach out to misinformed masses who innocently buy into these narratives, with structured and semi structured interviews and surveys, to find out what’s bothering them, and why they believe Kremlin more than their own government or news sources from their country.
Fourth, stop the migrant flow by any means. The disordered attempt to accept millions of migrants who came illegally on boats all at once and spread across Europe with no oversight has been a colossal failure. The neo-liberal order has failed, and illegal immigration is a threat. From ISIS sleeper cells, to sex starved uneducated job seekers from places like Morocco and Pakistan and Senegal and Ivory Coast—places that aren’t even at war and don’t have refugees—it is destroying social cohesion, and denigrating the genuine refugees and migrants. Researchers and academics who migrated to Europe in legal ways, and are helping and contributing in research or other jobs for their host countries, are now being targeted because European governments cannot control their public places or people. Migration is also weaponized by Russia. If Europe accepts migrants then Russia will be able to exploit nativist backlash and right-wing groups, which will eventually lead to catastrophic disintegration of a single Europe. These right-wing groups, like the Nationalist Front, UKIP, and Greek New Dawn, are already promoting Russia’s arguments in their home countries.
It is in no one’s interest that a new Cold war is waged. However, sadly, sometimes we don’t have a choice. And, walking out is not an option.
*Mitchell Blatt moved to China in 2012, and since then he has traveled and written about politics and culture throughout Asia. A writer and journalist, based in China, he is the lead author of Panda Guides Hong Kong guidebook and a contributor to outlets including The Federalist, China.org.cn, The Daily Caller, and Vagabond Journey. Fluent in Chinese, he has lived and traveled in Asia for three years, blogging about his travels at ChinaTravelWriter.com. You can follow him on Twitter at @MitchBlatt.
This article was published by Bombs and Dollars