BY JOHN GRAHAM
On Feb. 9, billionaire George Soros wrote an article in The Guardian titled “Putin is a Bigger Threat to Europe’s Existence than ISIS.” In the article he warns that Russian President Vladimir Putin is exacerbating the migrant crisis to bring about the unravelling of the European project, resulting in the lifting of European Union-wide sanctions and forestalling Russia’s economic collapse. Western leaders are therefore making a grievous mistake in viewing Putin as a potential ally against the Islamic State group.
Soros’ detachment from geopolitical reality is breathtaking. He credits German Chancellor Angela Merkel with recognizing that the migrant crisis could destroy the EU, even though her disastrous, unilateral open-door policy has done more to exacerbate it than Putin ever could. He even describes Putin’s intervention in Syria as a strategic blunder. Really? Putin now has a secure foothold in the Middle East, a Mediterranean port for the Russian navy, and Western leaders are practically begging him to make their Middle East troubles go away. If this is Putin blundering, I dread to imagine what a Putin masterstroke looks like.
That the title of Soros’ piece says “Europe” when he means the EU shows that he takes as a given that the EU is worth saving from Putin’s machinations. The founding premise of the EU is that the key to continental peace and prosperity is a supranational confederation of semi-sovereign countries able to restrain the evils of excessive nationalism. As a Jew who grew up in Nazi-occupied Hungary, it is understandable that Soros would subscribe to this notion. If the EU were just a forum for trade and cooperation, I might share his sentiment.
But the EU is far more than that. Its ultimate goal is “ever closer union,” culminating in a United States of Europe. How else do you explain the many trappings of a sovereign country? Free movement of people and labor within the EU’s “borders,” a single currency, an EU Commission handing down binding, supranational edicts which are then rubber-stamped by an EU parliament — the only directly elected body in the EU. There is even a flag and an anthem (set to the tune of Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy”).
The result is a dysfunctional chimera of nation-states, a parody of the very thing it was meant to replace. Note how EU foreign policy resembles the high-and-mighty behavior of a glorified non-government organization, labelling Israeli products from the West Bank and penalizing developing world farmers for using genetically modified crops, to name but two examples. Contrast this with the abject cowardice EU leaders have displayed in the face of Putin’s aggression in Ukraine, the inability to deter migrants from risking their lives crossing the Aegean — made worse by Merkel’s open-door invitation, and the sweeping concessions the EU has made to Turkey in return for stemming the tide. If one dispenses with the anachronistic idea that the EU is the key to European peace and prosperity, it is hard to see what makes it worth saving.
The Russian threat to Europe (not the EU) is overstated. The shale revolution has done more to undermine Russia than sanctions ever could. If sanctions ended tomorrow, foreign capital could allow Russia to bail out its beleaguered energy firms and regional governments, but rock-bottom oil prices are here to stay, with shale as a safe alternative for Europe in the event of a Russian energy blackmail.
Soros also claims that the threat from the Islamic State group is overstated, adding that Putin is trying to stoke Western Islamophobia to bolster his aims. Most Europeans are sick of hearing that Islamic terrorism is the fault of the West. For one thing, many of its victims are other Muslims; for another thing, Western recruits to al Qaeda and the Islamic State group come disproportionately from second- or third-generation, middle-class families, not from the downtrodden inhabitants of ghettos and banlieues. Speaking of which, how many have died in gun and bomb attacks on the streets of European cities on Putin’s orders?
Putin is certainly no friend. He runs a mafiocracy at home and is a menace abroad, but Russia does not pose the existential threat to the West that Islamic supremacism does. If geopolitics is chess, then Putin plays like a grandmaster. By contrast, the current U.S. administration draws red lines on the board and does nothing when they are crossed, and EU leaders shut their eyes and pray for a draw. The only two effective forces against the Islamic State group and Jabhat al-Nusra are the Kurds and the forces of the Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. That we have been forced into this sorry zugzwang is entirely our fault. The only way the migrant crisis can be solved is through a meaningful ceasefire in Syria, and Putin is the only one who can make it happen; if the EU has to collapse first, then the sooner it happens the better.