Vladimir Putin’s Russia poses a bigger threat to the Europe Union than Isis, the billionaire financier, George Soros, has said.
Writing in the Guardian, Mr Soros called Mr Putin a “gifted tactician” who rather than being a “potential ally” in the fight against Isis is actually “foster[ing] the EU’s disintegration” by “flood[ing] Europe with Syrian refugees.”
While the threat of Isis has a “simple antidote: refuse to behave the way your enemies want you to”, claims Mr Soros. “The threat emanating from Putin’s Russia will be difficult to counter. ”
Mr Soros accuses Mr Putin of seizing the fight against the so-called Islamic State to bolster the EU's downfall and says he has obscured his actions by “talking of cooperating against a common enemy, Isis.”
The 85-year-old cites Russian air attacks on southern and northern Syria as a factor creating tens of thousands of refugees heading for safety in Europe.
“There is no reason to believe he [Mr Putin] intervened in Syria in order to aggravate the European refugee crisis,” Mr Soros says, “but once Putin saw the opportunity to hasten the EU’s disintegration, he seized it.”
Both Russia and Europe are on the brink of collapse, says Mr Soros, “The question is which will collapse first.”
Mr Soros predicts the demise of Russia, forecasting the nation's bankruptcy in 2017 when a large part of its foreign debt matures in tandem with Western sanctions and the declining price of oil.
The EU meanwhile, he claims, faces its own disintegration stemming from the finical crisis of 2008 as well as the mounting refugee crisis.
“The most effective way Putin’s regime can avoid collapse is by causing the EU to collapse sooner.”
“The race for survival pits the EU against Putin’s Russia,” he states. “Isis poses a threat to both, but it should not be overestimated. Attacks mounted by jihadi terrorists, however terrifying, do not compare with the threat emanating from Russia.”
In the past week, Syrian government forces, supported by Russian air strikes, Iranian troops and Hezbollah, have launched a major offensive in the rebel-held area to the north of Aleppo.
The move has shifted momentum in a five-year civil war that has claimed at least 250,000 lives and forced 11 million people from their homes.
Russia maintains that its air strikes do not kill civilians. However, many have questioned this, including the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, who said she was “not just appalled but horrified” by Russian attacks on civilians.
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