If there was ever any doubt that Russia is engaging in little more than a game of geopolitical extortion in Syria, there shouldn't be any more.
By targeting opponents of Bashar al-Assad, Moscow has effectively assured that Syria's civil war will continue indefinitely.
By indiscriminately bombing civilian targets, the Kremlin has effectively assured that the refugee crisis in Europe will intensify.
And by financing xenophobic political parties and movements in Europe, Russia is making sure the issue remains politically lethal.
One European official told the Financial Times that Vladimir Putin's regime has essentially "weaponized" the migrant crisis by hitting everything from bakeries to hospitals in an effort to increase the flow of refugees toward Turkey and Europe.
Russia's bombing of Aleppo continued over the weekend and humanitarian groups say the plight of civilians in the city is rapidly deteriorating.
And Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev's bellicose rhetoric at the Munich Security Conference suggested that this will continue -- despite a shaky ceasefire deal between Russia and other world powers.
In an interview with Time magazine, Medvedev effectively revealed Moscow's endgame.
"We will never ask for sanctions to be lifted," Medvedev said. Instead, the West will "come themselves and say: "'Let’s finally put an end to this, because nobody is better off for it; everyone is only the worse off.'"
It's time to call things what they are. The West and the international community is essentially dealing with an extortionist.
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