Russia is ‘weaponising’ Syrian refugees. So says senior NATO commander Philip Breedlove. US senator John McCain said exactly the same thing at the Munich Security Conference a couple of weeks ago. But apart from headlines in the Financial Times (which is doing its best to fearmonger about a new Cold War), this claim from John ‘I’ve never seen a war I didn’t like’ McCain was not that widely reported. Hence why it’s been repeated by Breedlove in order to bolster NATO’s flagging purpose.
McCain and Breedlove claim that Russian (and Syrian government) bombing in Syria is part of a wider plot to destabilise Europe by sewing divisions in Europe and NATO. That such a preposterous claim could be so uncritically reported shows how accepting Western media are of anti-Russian propaganda.
Firstly, the refugees stranded in Europe consist of many nationalities, though Syrians are certainly in the majority. Kosovo has produced the third-highest number of refugees after Syria and Afghanistan, and given that it’s an EU protectorate and NATO bombed it to independence, who is doing the weaponising there? Secondly, Russia began bombing in September 2015, which was well after the refugee crisis had begun.
The argument is that US, French and Saudi bombs don’t hurt people or make them want to run away, but Russian and Syrian bombs are killers. This has been a standard trope rolled out without comment by much of the Western media, and reflects the disgraceful lack of honest and independent analysis of our own foreign policy.
How do we know that, prior to Russian bombing, Syrian people didn’t welcome coalition bombs destroying their houses, livelihoods and killing their children? The US-led coalition started bombing Syria in September 2014, at which time the already-existing refugee crisis was worsening. According to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), 380,000 refugees had already arrived in Europe before Russian bombing started in September 2015. This was up from 216,000 for the whole of 2014.