Politico reports: When EU leaders began wrestling with how to confront Russia over its military intervention in Ukraine, there seemed little connection between events in Crimea and Donbas, the raging conflict in Syria and the outset of a second civil war in Libya.
As they gather Friday for an informal European Council summit on the island of Malta, a striking new geopolitical landscape has come clearly into focus: a crescent of Russian influence, arching from Donetsk in the east to Tripoli in the west.
Having cemented Russia’s role as the dominant belligerent against a pro-Western Ukraine, where the half-frozen conflict in the east has flared up in the past week, and in Syria where a fragile ceasefire has taken hold with Moscow’s ally Bashar al-Assad still in power, President Vladimir Putin has turned his attention to Libya.
For Europe, this raises the worrying prospect that Russia could gain control over the flow of migrants across the central Mediterranean, giving Putin leverage to destabilize Europe by unleashing a flood of refugees like the exodus from Syria that caused a crisis in Europe in 2015.
“It would have a tap to open when it needs something from us,” warned one Central European diplomat. [Continue reading…]