Baltic States Also Affected
The latest phase of a joint Belarusian-Russian ‘non-lethal attack’ occurred in early November, when Minsk sent several thousand illegal migrants toward three EU member states: Poland, Lithuania and Latvia. It is clear that the whole operation was designed by Russia, which is well known for using various non-military tools of intimidation against opponents. People in despair is just another resource the Kremlin has no hesitation using to achieve its goals. Alexander Lukashenko – Europe’s last dictator – will do anything just to remain in power.
Migrants from the Middle East were lured by the Belarusian regime, which promised them safe, easy passage to Germany and gave them visas. The largest groups were sent by Minsk to Kuźnica, a major border crossing between Belarus and Poland. The Polish-Belarusian border is 418km; that between Belarus and Lithuania is some 500km; and Latvia shares 173km with its southern neighbor. Why, then, were the greatest numbers directed at Poland? It is the shortest passage between Belarus and Germany, the ‘dream destination’ for Middle Eastern and African migrants who remember Angela Merkel’s disastrous ‘open border’ migration policy.
Poland’s stand is clear – a national border cannot be violated and must be protected by all non-lethal means. Opening the gates to illegal migration would be a violation of Polish sovereignty, whereas anyone seeking refugee status, a work permit or a student visa can apply at any Polish consulate – including one located in Minsk. Secondly, Poland is obliged to protect the EU’s border. Thirdly, the subterfuge serves the Kremlin’s interests, creating a dangerous precedent. From the Polish perspective it is obvious that, if this group was allowed to proceed to Germany, others would follow, destabilizing the region.
Therefore, Warsaw immediately deployed thousands of soldiers, police (including riot-control units) and firemen to halt the human wave, which was transported to the border zone by Belarusian security forces. From abundant video evidence, it is clear that Belarus instructed migrants how and where to attack Polish personnel. It is also claimed that some Belarusian officers were disguised as migrants. Minsk equipped migrants with axes, tear gas and used both laser and strobe lights in order to blind and intimidate Polish personnel – several of whom were injured. Similar events, although on a smaller scale, occurred in Lithuania, where Poland had earlier deployed dozens of its Border Guard officers under a FRONTEX operation.
It seems that Poland’s strategy paid off. The majority of migrants were halted on the Belarusian side of the border: contrary to widespread media reports, there is no such thing as a no-man’s land. Lukashenko decided to withdraw the majority of migrants from the Kuźnica area, some of them returning home (in some cases to Iraq). However, Warsaw warns its allies this does not mean Russia and Belarus have abandoned their plan to destabilise the EU. Every night, dozens of illegal migrants try to breach the border – 346 incidents being reported by the Border Guard in a single night recently. Without decisive reaction from the West, the operation will be unending.
Robert Czulda reporting from Lodz, Poland