In recent days, there has been published speculation that Russian President Vladimir Putin has been deliberately creating conditions in Syria that are so intolerable that people have no choice but to try and reach the sanctuary of Europe — specifically, Germany.
The civil war and the resulting refugee crisis has become a “weapon” to destablize Europe. As far was we know, there is no direct evidence to believe that Putin has engineered the crisis for this purpose.
However, NATO analysts are now saying that Russia is stoking opposition in Germany to Chancellor Angela Merkel’s policies, hoping to engineer her ouster.
Russia is trying to topple Angela Merkel by waging an information war designed to stir up anger in Germany over refugees, Nato’s most senior expert on strategic communications has claimed.
The attempt to provoke the removal of the German leader, who has been a strong supporter of sanctions against Vladimir Putin’s regime, is said to have been identified by Nato analysts.
Jānis Sārts, director of Nato’s Strategic Communications Centre of Excellence, based in Riga, Latvia, told the Observer that Russia had a track record of funding extremist forces in Europe, and that he believed there was now evidence ofRussia agitating in Germany against Merkel.
Insisting that he could talk only as an expert, and not as a spokesman for Nato, Sārts said: “[Russia] is establishing a network that can be controlled. You can use it as they have tried to do in Germany, combined with the legitimate issue of refugees, to undercut political processes in a very serious way. Angela Merkel has been a very adamant supporter of continued sanctions against Russia If it was just punishment, that would be OK – but it is testing whether they can build on pre-existing problems and create a momentum where there is political change in Germany.
“I think they test whether they can – in such a big country, with not so many vulnerabilities in normal times – actually create a circumstance through their influence where there is a change of top leadership. They are using Russian speakers, social media, trying to build on the existing faultlines. Use the far right narrative and exploit that.”
Sārts, who has access to intelligence briefings, added: “In general terms, you can trace Russian funding to the extreme forces in Europe. Either left or right – as long as they are extreme, they are good to come into the Russian picture as of possible use in their tactics.”
These tactics are nothing new, having been used frequently during the Cold War. But the sophistication of modern communications, as well as the targeting of a NATO country, sets this effort apart from past attempts at destablization.
The Soviets targeted the periphery of NATO for destablization — Turkey, Greece and Italy. Now Putin is trying his hand at upending Germany — a cornerstone of NATO and European stability. If he is successful, the EU will be in disarray and free Putin’s hand in the Ukraine and possibily the Baltics.
Make no mistake: Putin is playing the long game here. He is playing chess while Obama and the Europeans are playing checkers. He is outhinking and outmaneuvering his opponents at almost every turn.
And they appear powerless to stop him.