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Poland-Belarus: Putin behind migrant crisis at the border, says Polish PM Morawiecki

The 2021 Belarus-European migrant crisis is manifested in an influx of tens of thousands of refugees from countries, such as Iraq and Africa, into Lithuania, Latvia, and Poland through states that share a border with Belarus. The escalation of crises is the direct consequence of deterioration in Belarus-EU relations, especially in the aftermath of events, such as the 2020 Belarusian presidential elections, the Ryanair Flight 4978 incident, and the attempts to forcefully repatriate Krystina Tsimanouskaya. 

On 9th November 2021, Poland officially sealed the crossing with Belarus at the border town of Kuznica; this is after thousands of refugees arrived and attempted to cross into the EU. Hundreds of refugees found themselves trapped in freezing weather conditions at the bloc’s eastern front. Polish PM Mateusz Morawiecki referred to the standoff as a ‘hybrid attack’ carried out by the regime of Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko. Morawiecki has asserted that closing its border with Belarus is essential to preserve the state’s national interest; nevertheless, the current standoff has broader implications for the security strength of the EU.

Poland declares Moscow as the puppet master of the Belarus-Poland migration crises

In response to the recent border standoff between Poland and Belarus, Morawiecki has emphasized the role of Russian President Putin in the intensification of the crises in an attempt to destabilize the EU. At the emergency session of the parliament, Morawiecki asserted that the attack conducted by Lukashenka has its mastermind in Russia; he stated that while Lukashenka is an executor, there exists an enabler in Moscow, referring to President Putin. Therefore, Poland has identified Putin as the culprit behind this brinkmanship and the puppet master of what Warsaw perceives as a form of ‘hybrid war.’ Morawiecki has displayed concerns over the new type of war in which people are being utilized as human shields. 

Furthermore, Morawiecki declared the fiasco as an attempt by Moscow to advance its neo-colonial or imperialist aspiration and destabilize the region it once controlled during the Soviet era. In other words, it depicts a determination by the Russian present to set the stage for the reconstruction of the Russian Empire, the scenario that will be forcefully resisted by all poles. Poland has declared that, for the first time in three decades, the state’s integrity has been brutally violated alongside its eastern border. Russian and Belarusian authorities have discussed the tensions at the Polish-Belarusian border over a call. 

In the wake of these developments, the Polish government has sought to replace razor wire fences with a concrete wall; currently, the state has reinforced the border with additional riot police. The leadership has also announced a state of emergency in the border area, except for journalists, healthcare, and humanitarian workers.

The EU scrutinizes the role of Russian role in the immigration crises

In response to the border standoff, the EU declared that it is observing and monitoring twenty nations, including Moscow, for their conceivable role in the transportation of refugees towards Belarus. On 9th November, the EU stated that it had undertaken action against three countries from where flights are said to have moved immigrants to Minsk. A chief diplomat at the EU has identified Russia on its Radar; therefore, the bloc is monitoring information and statistics regarding flights from Moscow and their potential impacts. 

In response, Russia has asserted that it is carefully evaluating the alarming situation. Moscow has acknowledged the phone call between Lukashenko and Putin; however, Russia describes it as a means for the exchange of information between the two states via all possible means, inclusive of special services. Moreover, Putin has acknowledged the crisis as a real-world problem that must be dealt with immediately. The conversation between the two leaders also depicted concerns over the lives and health of civilians massed in the border region and condemned Poland’s harsh policy actions against them. This depicts that Belarus seeks to blame Poland for the employment of defense forces at the border, terming it as a violation of the country’s humanitarian obligations. 

Russia has remained a major ally of Belarus, providing diplomatic and economic assistance in the face of increasing pressure from the bloc over human rights concerns and immigrant crises. The recent standoff at the border has bought global condemnation of Minsk, with the accusation of ‘cynical’ exploitation of refugees in the aftermath of EU imposition of the sanction of its authoritarian regime. 

On 10th November 2021, German Chancellor Angela Merkel spoke over call to Putin, asking him to use his leverage to pressure Belarus into terminating ‘inhumane instrumentalization of immigrants, rendering it unacceptable. In response, Moscow has suggested direct EU-Belarus contact on the issue. German foreign minister has highlighted that Belarus must realize that its calculations have failed to work and that the EU will not be blackmailed.  

What option does the EU have? 

Front line countries are constructing concrete walls and razor fences and would want the EU to finance it. However, the EU has categorically refused to do this in the past; in part, it is due to the Berlin Wall’s memories and practical consequences of border barriers. Recently, Charles Michel, the President of the European Council, has requested to enact a ‘rapid’ solution to border financing. He stated, “Polish and Baltic borders are the EU border. One for all and all for one.” The EU countries have demanded that at least the bloc partially fund physical barriers in the border region; however, Ursula von der Leyen has denied the provision.

Currently, the bloc has planned to work on a package for sanctions that could be green-signaled at the meeting of foreign ministers in Brussels on 15th November and implemented shortly after. More recently, the EU also agreed on the expansion of the sanction criteria to Belarus to encompass natural or legal persons, entities contributing to the enrichment of Lukashenka’s regime, and facilitating: 

  • Unlawfully crossing of member country’s external borders;
  • Trafficking of illicit or hazardous products within the member country’s territory. 

Written By: Olivium's Staff.


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