We Stand With Belgium, but It’s Their Own Fault
Messages of support have been overshadowed in some cases by messages of blame for the attacks in Brussels.
In the aftermath of Tuesday’s terrorist attacks in Brussels, which killed at least 31 and injured 270, the international community was quick to offer messages of solidarity to the Belgian capital. #JeSuisBrux, a French message of solidarity with the city, trended almost instantly on social media. U.S. President Barack Obama opened his remarks during his historic trip to Cuba on Tuesday to offer his condolences to Belgium. On Wednesday, Washington announced that Secretary of State John Kerry will visit the country this week to “reiterate the strong support of the United States for Belgian efforts to both investigate these attacks and continue contributing to international efforts to counter violent extremism.”
But the many messages of support have been countered by other messages of blame, including from elected officials around the world who claim that Brussels did not do enough to prevent this attack. The most common complaint? The European Union’s failures to share information between borders.
Turkey: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan tweeted Tuesday that the Turkish people “share the pain of the Belgian people.” But on Wednesday, he announced that Turkish authorities warned Belgium about Ibrahim Bakraoui, one of the suicide bombers who blew himself up at the Brussels airport. Turkey claims to have deported him last summer, amid suspicions he was headed to Syria to potentially join the Islamic State or another terrorist group.
“One of the perpetrators of the Brussels attack is a person whom we detained in June 2015 in [the southeastern province of] Gaziantep and deported,” Erdogan said at a news conference in Ankara. “We informed the Brussels Embassy of the deportation process of the attacker with a note on July 14, 2015. However, the Belgians released the attacker despite his deportation.”
Bakraoui, who was detained in Gaziantep near the Syrian border, was deported to the Netherlands at his request and was then able to travel within the EU. Turkey claims to have informed both countries — the Netherlands and Belgium, Bakraoui’s home country — about its concerns.
France: Speaking in Brussels, French Prime Minister Manuel Valls said Wednesday that the future of the European Union depended on intelligence sharing.
“If the European project is running out of steam, if the populists are gaining in popularity, it’s because a lot of speeches are not followed up in reality,” Valls said. “In the years to come, the [EU] member states will have to invest massively in their security systems.”
Germany: German Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière said Tuesday night that there is an “urgent” need for Europe to better share intelligence between countries.
“It seems that the clear targets of the attacks — an international airport, a metro station close to EU institutions — indicate that this terrorist attack is not aimed solely against Belgium but against our freedom, freedom of movement, mobility, and everyone in the EU,” he said at a news conference in Berlin.
He also told German RTL Television that concerns about data privacy should be secondary to improving information sharing.
“The best remedy against such attacks is information exchange,” de Maizière said. “The main point, however, is that we have separately existing data pools – for visa traffic, for investigative data, and for flight passenger data. We have to link these.”
Russia: President Vladimir Putin showed some restraint in criticizing the EU when he commented on the attacks Tuesday, saying that the Kremlin has “repeatedly discussed the issues related to the fight against terrorism,” and adding that “it’s possible to efficiently combat it only by united efforts.”
But his allies didn’t hesitate to lash out.
“While [NATO Secretary-General Jens] Stoltenberg … fights the imaginary ‘Russian threat’ and sends troops to Latvia, people are being blown up in Brussels right under his nose,” tweeted Aleksei Pushkov, chairman of the international affairs committee in Russia’s lower parliament house.
Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova also laid blame for the attacks at the EU’s feet, reportedly saying, “You can’t support terrorists in one place and think that they won’t come to you.”
“You must not divide terrorists into good and bad. You must not support them in the Middle East and the North Caucasus and then think that they won’t come to another part of the planet,” she said, according to Russian tabloid Komsomolskaya Pravda, likely referring to Putin’s claims that the West has supported militants in the North Caucasus.
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