Putin Uses Migrants as Weapons

Politics - March 2, 2024

Russia uses private militias in African countries to control migration to Europe and turn it into a “weapon” against the West. Not only are migrants pushing towards Finland from Russia. Russia is devoting itself to undermining Europe also through migrant flows across the Mediterranean from Africa.

An intelligence document, reported by the Daily Telegraph, describes Russian plans to set up a 15,000-strong force made up of former militias in Libya to control the flow of migrants over the Mediterranean.

It is suspected that the Kremlin already has influence over several main routes to Europe. The reason why Russia wants to try to control migrant flows towards Europe is that the issue is a hotly contested issue in many EU countries. By sending hundreds of thousands of new migrants towards Europe, President Vladimir Putin is creating more contradictions within Europe.

Destabilize the EU through more migrants

Russia is trying to destabilize Europe by pushing migrants into the continent with the help of private armies, intelligence sources say.

With the help of paramilitary forces and private mercenaries, among them the infamous Wagner group, Russia is expected to resort to violence in already insecure countries such as Sudan, Mali, Libya, Burkina Faso and Central African Republic. The purpose of this is to force people to leave their homes and flee with the goal of reaching Europe on the other side of the Mediterranean Sea.

On a smaller scale, it has already happened at the Finnish border, where migrants came by bicycle in the middle of  the very cold winter to Finnish border posts to seek asylum. Finland has responded by closing the border crossings to avoid receiving the asylum applications.

Finnish Prime Minister Petteri Orpo has said it is clear that the migrants arriving at the Finnish border have been escorted to the border by Russian personnel, although Russia denies the claims.

Many of the migrants who arrived at the Finnish border lacked identification and other documentation such as tickets explaining how they have reached Finland in northern Europe from their homelands in Africa and the Middle East.

In recent years, thousands of migrants from the Middle East and Africa have arrived at border controls to countries like Poland, Lithuania and Latvia. They have come from Belarus, having first traveled up through Russia.

The EU’s border police agency, Frontex, has said Russia is using migration “as leverage in a larger power game to pressure” its adversaries in the West, the Daily Mail reports.

Increased level of conflict in European countries over migration policy could be in Russia’s favor by shifting focus away from supporting Ukraine. And by extension, the Russian regime probably hopes that divisions will also arise within and between EU member states over the will to support Ukraine in the war of aggression that Russia started two years ago.

Putin’s plan thus seems to be that by driving large migrant flows across the Mediterranean to EU countries, support for Ukraine will decrease.

Russian collaboration with militias

Russia already cooperates with militias and mercenaries participating in the civil war in Libya. These have already been suspected of having a close collaboration with the people smugglers who send Africans out in rickety boats from the African coast up towards Europe.

A security source cited in the intelligence report said whoever manages to control people-smuggling routes into Europe could also influence the upcoming European Parliament elections in June. Through this tangible influence operation, the agenda for the election movement can be steered towards the conflict between asylum activism and opposition to increased immigration.

Largest volume since 2016

When it comes to how large the volumes are, Frontex believes that there were 380,000 irregular border crossings in 2023, the highest volume since the great wave of migrants in 2016.