WASHINGTON, March 2 (UPI) -- Russia is using Syrian refugees as a war weapon to weaken Europe, Gen. Philip Breedlove, NATO's top commander, told a U.S. Senate committee.
"These indiscriminate weapons used by both [Syrian President] Bashar al-Assad, and the non-precision use of weapons by the Russian forces -- I can't find any other reason for them other than to cause refugees to be on the move and make them someone else's problem ...Together, Russia and the Assad regime are deliberately weaponizing migration in an attempt to overwhelm European structures and break European resolve," Breedlove told the Senate Armed Services Committee in Washington Tuesday.
He referred to Russia's air campaign, ostensibly fighting the Islamic State but increasingly directed at civilian targets, as evidence Syria and Russia are initiating mass migrations that strain European resources.
The five year-long civil war in Syria has cost more than 270,000 lives and has led to mass migration, largely to Europe.
Breedlove was also critical of Russia's threats against its western neighbors, including several NATO countries, its militarization of its Arctic regions and the growth of its expeditionary forces, as seen in Ukraine and Syria.
"Russia has chosen to be an adversary and poses a long-term existential threat to the United States and to our European allies and partners," he told the Senate committee.