The cynical strategy by which Putin wants to destabilize the West

The mass flight of refugees from Ukraine has created a humanitarian crisis that goes beyond what Europe has seen since World War II. More than four million people have fled to neighboring countries, and as long as Russia’s savage war continues, millions more will flee. Already, the flow of refugees from Ukraine is much higher than the number from Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq, who fled to Europe in 2015, changing European policy, writes The New York Times.

Europe’s initial reaction to the flight from Ukraine was an impressive show of solidarity, given how suddenly the crisis erupted. The refugees, most of whom are women and children, as most men are required to stay in Ukraine to fight, have been received and housed even as their numbers increase.

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But the scale of this crisis is staggering and still in its infancy. Dealing with it will require more coordination, imagination, funding and determination both in Europe and in the United States and its allies in other parts of the world. Existing refugee centers should receive much more assistance and ways should be found to encourage refugees to move to countries that have more capacity to accommodate them. Preparations should also be made now to help Ukrainians return home in the event of a lasting peace.

The wide opening of the gates for European refugees raises an inevitable comparison with the treatment of refugees from Syria, Afghanistan and other countries. About 16,000 people remain in refugee camps in Greece, and many of them are starving because they lack the same rights as Ukrainians. But the answer to a double standard cannot be to close the doors of Ukrainians.

To put things in perspective, nearly one million Syrians, Afghans and Iraqis have crossed the Mediterranean to take refuge in Europe in one year, 2015. Since the Russian invasion of Ukraine began on February 24, nearly one million people left Ukraine every week. With the exception of a peace agreement, Russia will continue to bomb civilian infrastructure. Ukraine will continue to fight for its survival. Ten million people – about a quarter of Ukraine’s population – could leave the country in the coming months.

Refugees used as weapons by Putin

Cities in Poland, Moldova and Romania have been transformed, putting pressure on schools, housing, hospitals and government assistance programs. Warsaw, a city of about 1.6 million people, now hosts more than 300,000 Ukrainian refugees, many of them sleeping in hastily arranged reception centers. Overcrowded shelters for women and children are targets for human trafficking and criminal exploitation.

Refugees are not a blatant mistake of Vladimir Putin’s war in Ukraine. The indiscriminate bombing of civilian infrastructure is part of a broader strategy to demoralize the civilian population and expel residents to neighboring countries, where their presence can be destabilizing. This became clear during last year’s episode on the Belarusian-Polish border, after Aleksandr Lukashenko, Belarus’ autocrat leader, appeared to have created a crisis by encouraging migrants to move to Poland.

Over time, resentment of Ukrainian refugees could increase. People who have begun receiving refugees may turn against them, putting pressure on their governments to force Ukraine to end the war under Russian conditions. Reducing this pressure by supporting host countries makes this tactic of trying to turn refugees into weapons less effective.

EU measures

The Council of the European Union has already taken an important step by adopting a directive granting temporary protection status to Ukrainian citizens and certain permanent legal residents of Ukraine for one year. Most Ukrainians already had the right to travel without visas to European Union countries for 90 days. The new measure gives them the right to live, work and go to school in EU countries without having to go through the official asylum process.

But much more needs to be done to help places where refugees are grouped and to help refugees find their way out of overcrowded reception centers. The UK’s “Shelter for Ukraine” program, which pays families and organizations to receive refugees, has so far issued 2,700 visas, while Finland has offered places to universities for 2,000 Ukrainians.

These ad hoc efforts are important but insufficient, given the millions of people who are affected. The European Union has created a platform to match aid offers to those in need. Seven countries, including Norway, Liechtenstein and Switzerland, have pledged to receive about 15,000 Ukrainians now in Moldova. But this is a small part of the estimated 98,000 Ukrainians in Moldova, many of whom are reluctant to leave because they speak a language they know, Russian.

The European Union has also identified around € 17 billion in pandemic recovery funds and programs to promote social and economic cohesion that could be spent immediately on urgent needs, including housing, education, health care and childcare. An EU proposal to address the current crisis would distribute more of these funds to countries hosting large numbers of refugees. Hungary, Poland, Romania and Slovakia would receive 45% more funding than they would normally receive.

What the US and its allies are doing

Efforts to humanely house those displaced by war must not be limited to Europe. Canada, which is home to a large Ukrainian population, has agreed to allow an unlimited number of people fleeing the war to stay for at least two years. Even Japan, which has long been reluctant to accept refugees, has agreed to accept Ukrainians.

President Biden’s announcement that the United States would accept up to 100,000 is a good start, but the country can do more, especially when public support for receiving Ukrainian refugees is strong. The United States has been a key player in Ukraine over the years, from encouraging Ukrainians to oppose Russia to convincing Ukrainians to agree to the elimination of nuclear weapons from their territory after the collapse of the Soviet Union, a decision that many Ukrainians deeply regret it today.

As the world enters a period of greater instability, its leaders can no longer ignore the need for a coordinated and humane response to all those fleeing war and other desperate circumstances, the NYT notes.

Source: Breaking News – Cele mai importante stiri – by

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