After a brief and exciting diversion, it is time to get back to the geopolitical. So many things have happened in the world during the past couple of weeks that it is almost difficult to know where to begin. President Vladimir Putin set the tone with his rare appearance at the United Nations, while Syria witnessed an equally rare appearance of Russian jets over the Middle East. Furthermore, the refugee crisis that plagued Europe did not resolve itself, and the tensions between nations continued to escalate quickly. However, as these stories quickly appeared on the front pages of news media, so too did the misinformation. Therefore, in order to make sense of this mad month, let us reflect on the three biggest geopolitical myths of October.
Myth #1: Everyone relax, Russia is going after ISIS.
It would seem after the violcence Georgia and Crimea that the geopolitical of the Kremlin would be evident to almost anyone who reads the news. Yet, there are those who continue to misinterpret or distort the plain aggressiveness of Moscow’s geopolitics. RT news network, the closest news corporation to a pure propaganda apparatus, was at it again this month. Known for its peculiar alignment with Russian talking points, RT (originally an acronym for Russia Today) continually insisted that the Russian airstrikes in Syria were targeting ISIS and that the West fabricated the evidence of civilian casualties.
Of course, the real reason why Russia is in Syria is purely strategic. Vladimir Putin is set to restore the geopolitical might of the former Soviet Union by: a) securing the buffer zone around Russian borders, b) increasing its influence in the crucial areas of the world and c) combating American “imperialism.” Ironically, these objectives are not too far off those which were pursued by the Soviets during the Cold War. Therefore, it should not be surprising at all that the airstrikes “against ISIS” are actually airstrikes against American backed rebels. Russia is helping Assad remain in power by providing military assistance to a longtime ally. Furthermore, it is securing its geopolitical position by potentially creating a military base in the region.
Myth #2: Russian involvement in Syria will alleviate the refugee crisis.
Perhaps even more far-fetched than the one above, this myth claims that Putin’s intervention in Syria is a result of Moscow’s desire to solve the European immigration problem. In other words, we are to believe that after the Ruble-crippling sanctions on Russia were imposed by the European Union, Putin would respond in kind by sacrificing his military for Russia’s European comrades. The truth, it seems, is actually the other way around: Putin is well-aware that more conflict will only intensify the flow of migrants from Syria and that a disunited European Union is easier to manipulate. That said, it is reasonable to assume that stability in Syria is still Putin’s number one long term objective. There would be little use in keeping Syria in a perpetual “frozen conflict” (the sort that is used in Ukraine) simply because Assad is a pro-Russian leader and because securing his position in the government would fully satisfy Russian interests.
It is also important to note the strategy of Moscow when it comes to Syria. You may recall that Russia first stopped a US military intervention by proposing a diplomatic approach. It is hypocritical that Russia now finds the need to use the same military intervention that it previously criticized.
Myth # 3: European Union will stabilize after it solves the refugee crisis.
The refugee crisis is not the root cause of the European instability. The European Union has long struggled to cope with what many experts believe to be an unstable economic system “” and the refugee crisis only highlights the problems that would eventually plague Europe in the not so distant future. Politically, the inability to deal with Syrian refugees facilitated a rise of the right leaning parties across Europe. Nigel Farage’s UKIP changed the political landscape in the United Kingdom and pushed for an EU membership referendum; Le Pen’s Front is gaining support in France; and even the Scandinavian countries are witnessing a rebirth of the long-dead political right.
However, perhaps the most important development of all is the rising criticism of the Schengen Zone, which allows a free movement of peoples across the EU without a need for a visa. Currently, the Schengen creates a system of mini-federalism, the sort that was analogous to the American states under the Articles of Confederation. Therefore, it plays a crucial part in the political developments of Europe by making it possible to create wide-ranging economic systems. For example, after the victory of the Socialist Hollande in France, the French business sector left the country to their free market oriented neighbors. This ultimately caused a change in policy and a rise in French discontent. Consequently, the hypothetical collapse of the Schengen will fundamentally change the nature of European politics which will certainly not be accompanied by a stable transition.