NATO’s top general accused Russia and the Assad regime of fomenting a mass exodus of refugees as a “weapon” against the West.
Philip Breedlove, the NATO’s supreme commander in Europe, told US lawmakers on Tuesday that the mass bombing of civilian targets appeared to serve no other purpose than to weaken Europe by creating a massive, and continuous, wave of people desperate for food, shelter and safety.
“Together, Russia and the Assad regime are deliberately weaponizing migration in an attempt to overwhelm European structures and break European resolve,” Breedlove told the Senate Armed Services Committee.
Breedlove pointed to Russia’s six-month air campaign and the Assad’s regime use of barrel bombs against civilian targets as proof that the two countries are simply trying to create a mass displacement of people.
Breedlove also said that the refugee flow is “masking the movement” of destabilizing elements. Terrorists, criminals and returning foreign fighters are part of the refugee flow into Europe, he added.
Breedlove added that the refugee crisis further served to distract Western powers from the root cause of the crisis, as they grapple with huge numbers of arriving people.
“These indiscriminate weapons used by both Bashar al-Assad, and the non-precision use of weapons by the Russian forces – I can’t find any other reason for them other than to cause refugees to be on the move and make them someone else’s problem,” Breedlove said.
Breedlove also warned lawmakers that Russia poses a renewed threat to the United States itself. “Russia has chosen to be an adversary and poses a long-term existential threat to the United States and to our European allies and partners.”
A record one million refugees arrived in Europe in 2015, the majority of whom came from Syria and Iraq. (Source: Syrian Coalition)