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Soros’ migration plot is underfunded and imaginary

By Leonid Bershidsky / BloombergGeorge Soros is the subject of many conspiracy theories, but perhaps the most pervasive one is that he has a plan to flood Europe and the U.S. with undocumented migrants. But if that is the billionaire’s plan, the plot would be remarkably unsuccessful and waged with meager resources.

Last week, President Donald Trump said he “wouldn’t be surprised” if Soros were paying for a migrant caravan from Central America that is headed toward the U.S. He was only the latest leader to suggest the financier could be behind insidious pro-migration machinations.

In July, Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini, leader of the country’s most popular party, the nationalist League, said Soros “would like Italy to be a big refugee camp because he likes slaves.”

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban has accused “the empire of George Soros” of harboring a “grand plan: to break Hungary, which stands in the path of immigrants; and first to settle thousands, then tens upon tens of thousands of immigrants in Hungary within a few years.” Hungary has “Stop Soros” legislation in place, making it illegal to help undocumented immigrants. Soros’s Open Society Foundations fled Budapest after the law was passed.

Orban has been accused of anti-Semitic dog-whistling with his anti-Soros rhetoric, but even Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has criticized Soros, accusing him of trying to prevent the deportation of African migrants from Israel.

None of these leaders has offered a coherent explanation why Soros might want to fill Europe and the U.S. with immigrants. One version of the theory, which Orban appears to advocate, is that Soros is trying to erode nation-states, their borders and their sovereignty to make them subordinate to a global government. Orban and his allies have cited as evidence a column Soros wrote in 2015 calling on the EU to take in “at least a million asylum seekers annually for the foreseeable future” and to set up a supranational agency to process the asylum claims.

Another accusation appeared in a compendium of anti-Soros claims by the investment analysts David Galland and Stephen McBride that has been republished by a number of right-wing websites. They wrote that Soros intended to create economic and social chaos in Europe and spread the contagion to the U.S. so he could profit from bearish derivative positions.

One could even imagine the two somewhat contradictory explanations fitting together: First, Soros wants to create chaos and make money from it, and then a new, Soros-friendly, globalist order will emerge out of the chaos. The problem is that in reality, neither of Soros’s alleged goals is being served by events on the ground. Increased immigration has given rise to nationalist movements and centrifugal tendencies in Europe; Trump’s anti-immigrant administration is wrecking a relatively centralized global order. On the other hand, there is no economic chaos in Europe, much less in the U.S., and no stock crash from which a market manipulator might reap wild profits.

“Soros is vilified because he’s effective,” the right-wing ideologue Steve Bannon said recently. Yet if the billionaire really carried out any of the migration-related plans that are being ascribed to him, he’s been dreadfully ineffective.

Furthermore, it’s hard to imagine a global evil plot succeeding with the kind of financial commitment Soros has made to migration issues. According to the Open Society Foundations’ 2018 budget, the promised spending has doubled from last year, to a mere $63.3 million. This doesn’t include outlays under Soros’s 2016 pledge to invest $500 million in businesses working with migrants or founded by them. Soros promised the investments would be made through the Open Society Foundations, but the organization’s entire budget for program-related investments stands at $40 million this year. The total 2018 budget of the Open Society Foundations is just over $1 billion; migration programs, then, account for a maximum of 10 percent of allocated funds.

To put the numbers in perspective, German Finance Minister Olaf Scholz said earlier this year that Germany would invest a total of €78 billion ($88.9 billion) on its refugee policy by 2022, including €31 billion to address the causes of flight in asylum seekers’ countries of origin.

One could argue that a devilishly effective Soros can spend millions to create a problem that costs governments tens of billions to solve. But if that were the case, Germany should be even more interested in quashing Soros’s philanthropic organization than Hungary is. It certainly would be easier than investing billions in African countries to keep people there. Yet the Open Society Foundations’ staff moved to Berlin after its expulsion from Hungary. Like many other European governments, Germany’s realizes it’s not Soros who’s sending asylum seekers to Europe, and that help in integrating them into society is welcome whether it comes from Soros or anyone else.

If there’s a problem with Soros-funded migration-related programs, it’s not that they are part of a sinister globalist takeover of the world or some kind of clever chaos trade. It’s that they are a drop in the bucket.

Ordering global migration, keeping away some potential migrants and integrating others, helping those in need and deterring those with criminal intentions all require enormous resources that only governments possess. Soros, with his propensity for taking public stances, is a convenient decoy. If a politician starts talking about Soros’s migration plot, voters should be alarmed: It means the leader is trying to avoid tackling the real, billion-dollar issues.

Bershidsky is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist covering European politics and business. He was the founding editor of the Russian business daily Vedomosti and founded the opinion website Slon.ru.Speech

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