Even before the latest terror attacks in Brussels, anti-Muslim and anti-refugee sentiment in Europe had been on the rise. Most of the refugees arriving in Europe are escaping war and poverty in the Middle East and seeking a better life in the West. But according to European officials, other migrants are traveling into the Nordic and Baltic states from Russia and are not fleeing the fighting in Syria, Iraq or Afghanistan, but rather have been living in Russia and are being encouraged by the Kremlin to join the tide in Western Europe….
Russia encourages these migrants, according to Ilves and other European officials at the forum, because they strain European governments and stoke anti-Muslim sentiment that benefits the far-right parties Russia has supported. Pro-Russian parties have gained influence in Slovakia, Greece, Hungary, France and elsewhere. They tend to support the weakening of European Union institutions and favor closer ties to Russia, including through the end of sanctions.
Russia’s campaign of airstrikes in Syria, which has largely targeted civilian areas, also adds to the waves of Muslim migrants entering Europe through Greece. General Philip Breedlove, NATO’s supreme allied commander in Europe, said earlier this month that Russia was “weaponizing migration,” as a means to “overwhelm European structures and break European resolve.”