Debates: Russian and German experts assess the implications of recent terrorist attacks on Europe's migration policy.

Candles near a mall where the July 22 shooting took place leaving multiple people dead in Munich. Photo: AP

Europe has been shaken by explosions and numerous terrorist attacks several times over the past few weeks. Most recently, on July 27, a detonation incident involving a suitcase took place just 200 meters from a reception center for migrants in the town of Zirndorf near Nuremberg, Germany. So far, there are no confirmed casualties, according to German broadcaster Bayerischer Rundfunk.

Even though it is not clear if it was yet another attempt of a terrorist attack, the incident is a warning sign. Just one week earlier, on July 22, Europe was once again shaken by an act of violence – a mass shooting close to a shopping center in central Munich, Germany.

Although the Munich tragedy comes just one week after the terrorist act in Nice, France, the police said on July 23 that there was no connection to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Greater Syria (ISIS).

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The evidence suggests that the teenager was a “lone wolf,” similar to the Norwegian mass murderer Anders Breivik, who killed 77 people five years ago. Based on witness accounts, the attacker Ali David Sonboli expressed his hate for foreign migrants before starting to shoot. While a connection with ISIS was ruled out, experts assume that the main motive for the attack was anti-migrant sentiments.

Shortly after the shootings, Russian President Vladimir Putin offered condolences to German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Bavarian Prime Minister Horst Seehofer. Putin sent telegrams, in which he offered deep condolences to the people in Germany following the tragedy in Munich.

Against the backdrop of this tragic sequence of events that have played out over the summer, Russian and German experts who are members of the Valdai Discussion Club attempt to answer the question of whether or not Europe’s authorities will tighten their migration legislation.

Andrei Bystritsky, head of the Valdai Discussion Club, professor at the National Research University Higher School of Economics

It is likely that the gunman in Munich is a person with psychological problems - it is less probable that the Islamic State influenced him. Some were relieved by the fact that it was not an Islamic terrorist who committed the murder. This, however, does not change the general situation; it shows the extent to which Europe (and some other countries, including Russia) might be vulnerable to attacks by lone wolf terrorists.

They will continue bringing panic to European society with their attacks and imitating other lone wolves, as the 18-year-old Iranian-German did. It also does not matter to the victims who killed them – an Islamic radical or a madman. Such unprompted attacks – not terrorist ones in nature – still present a threat that may be even more dangerous than the one posed by Islamic radicals.

This is what English philosopher Thomas Hobbes called “the war of all against all,” the unstoppable violence against society as a whole seeking real or illusionary goals. Spontaneous killers today are knowingly following the “best” examples of terrorism and copying the behavior of professional killers. Thus, one has the feeling that we are living under an occupation, no longer being able to walk on the streets airily, but in constant fear of being attacked. Lone wolves are harder to spot compared to terrorists that can be uncovered in advance; this makes it less possible to prevent the attack.

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The event in Munich shows that there is an atmosphere of fear being spread in Europe that is strengthening with political unpredictability, most notably, after Brexit. The feeling of coming challenges is growing while a vision for the future is absent. Disintegration seems to be becoming a norm and no one is yet ready to sacrifice something for the common good. That’s why potential criminals are tempted to realize their dark ideas. They are using the current situation when Europe is in doubt.

Alexander Rahr, research director at the German-Russian Forum, member of the Valdai Discussion Club

The culprit who carried out the shooting in Munich was an 18-year-old German-born young Iranian. He might have had mental problems and radicalized because of computer games. He had bad academic standing and suffered an inferiority complex because he failed to integrate into German society. That’s why he turned to the gun.

Remarkably, he didn’t have any connections with ISIS. The Munich terrorist act is not related to Islamist radicals. It’s rather the “American version” of shootings, a huge tragedy like the ones that frequently take place in America. However, the fact that the criminal has Iranian origins might reinvigorate the right-leaning political circles in Germany and give them a reason to tighten control over migration from the Middle East.

Nevertheless, the Munich incident doesn’t deal with Islamism, and that’s why there won’t be any serious political ramifications [for Muslims living in Germany]. Even though the EU admits that the terrorism threat comes primarily from the immigrants of the third world countries, who failed to integrate in the EU community, Europe won’t close its borders, it won’t change its legislation and it won’t tighten the screws. European politicians and parties are firmly sticking to their democratic principles and values and the idea of a united Europe.   

And this is despite the fact that the movement of lone wolf terrorists is reinvigorating in Europe. Lone wolves are much more difficult – or almost impossible - to deal with in contrast to organized terrorist organizations. Lone wolves are unpredictable and don’t show any signs that might make them suspects. 

Despite the fact that there are no links between the Munich shootings and ISIS, one can track down an alarming trend. After all, it is not the first bloody assault that took place and was committed by Muslim migrants in Germany. Last week, a 17-year-old refugee from Afghanistan, who had, by the way, connections with ISIS, attacked train passengers with an axe.  

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Germany, with its perfect social and economic system, has been always a sort of magnet for refugees from the Middle East. Despite the fact they don’t know German, they go to this country, but cannot integrate and feel humiliated. So, some their representatives are very dangerous for society. At the same time, France is faced with even more serious problems in this regard. For example, several years ago young Arabs set fire to cars in Paris, while chanting, “You, French people, humiliate us.”

The comments of Andrei Bystritsky and  Alexander Rahr were kindly provided by the Valdai Discussion Club. They were extensively edited and adjusted to Russia Direct's style.