In a crisis that is, in some ways, reminiscent of our own disaster at the southern border, Poland is facing what amounts to an invasion across its border with Belarus. The London Times reports:
The EU has accused Belarus of acting like a “gangster” by luring migrants from the Middle East, Afghanistan and Africa and helping them to storm the border, which is the EU’s eastern edge, into Poland. The Polish government has claimed that Lukashenko’s ally, Russia, is behind the provocative operation.
The migrants allegedly have been flown into place on Russia’s airline, Aeroflot, and are accompanied to the border by Belarussian troops. “Gangster” seems like a fair characterization:
President Lukashenko of Belarus threatened today to close down a key gas pipeline to Europe if Poland shut its border. “We are heating Europe, but they still threaten us with closing the border,” Lukashenko, 67, said. “But what if we cut off [gas] for the Poles and, for example, for the Germans? What will happen then? We should stop at nothing when defending our sovereignty and our independence.”
Left unexplained is how Belarussian sovereignty and independence depend on forcing foreign migrants across the Polish border.
On Monday what had been a trickle of migrants heading to Poland increased dramatically, with hundreds arriving at the border, apparently ushered by Belarusian security forces. About 800 people have camped out in the cold in woods close to the Polish town of Kuznica. Morawiecki has sent about 15,000 soldiers to reinforce the border zone.
Belarus seems to be looking for a provocation:
Incidents on the border have continued to build up. The Polish defence ministry reported this morning that a group of “a few hundred” migrants had tried to enter the country near Bialowieza by “throwing objects” at soldiers and “attempting to destroy the fence”. They then retreated back into the forest, allegedly escorted by Belarusian soldiers.
The Belarusian side has also warned of armed escalation. Lukashenko told the state news agency BelTA today that “weapons, ammunition and explosives” were being delivered to migrants on the border. He said the weapons were mainly coming from Donbas, eastern Ukraine, where Russian-backed separatists have formed two breakaway republics.
Lukashenko said that he had spoken to President Putin about the issue. He said that many of the people camped near Kuznica were Kurds, whom he described as “warriors”. “With provocation, we will have an armed conflict,” Lukashenko said.
The Belarusian defence ministry also accused Poland of an “unprecedented build-up of military forces” on its borders, while state media whipped up anti-Polish sentiment. “You are playing with fire! You organised this crisis, this humanitarian catastrophe! America will not fight for you! Did 1939 teach you nothing?” said a TV presenter.
Well, she is certainly correct that the Biden administration will not fight for Poland. Belarus would not be engaging in this provocative behavior without Russian sanction or, more likely, instigation. What are the Russians up to? Why do they think it is in their interest to force Middle Eastern and African immigrants into Poland? Are they observing the disaster at our own border, and using similar tactics to weaken Poland? Or are they simply trying to provoke an armed clash that could be the pretext for war in Eastern Europe?
I don’t know. But it seems likely that Vladimir Putin sees an opportunity to take advantage of a pitiful U.S. administration to advance Russian interests and undermine the free countries of Eastern Europe.