For the past few weeks, Polish television has spoken about little else: the immigration crisis, with thousands of asylum seekers from the Middle East trying to make their way to the EU through Poland, has dominated the news, obscuring even the pandemic.
Polish media has been consistent in invariably blaming the Belarusian government and President Lukashenko for this new influx of migrants from Belarus to the European Union.
Often Polish experts and politicians extend their accusations to Russia and President Putin, who is said to be Lukashenko’s only backer. Now European and Western observers and politicians too are beginning to see the hand of Moscow behind what they see as an orchestrated crisis.
Today, during a joint press conference, Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki and the President of the European Council, Charles Michel, commented on the tense situation on the Polish-Belarusian border. “From a distance, these events may look like a migration crisis, but this is not a migration crisis, it is a political crisis triggered with the special purpose of destabilizing the situation in the EU”, said Morawiecki. “This attack which Lukashenko is conducting has its mastermind in Moscow, the mastermind is President Putin”, Morawiecki told the Polish parliament. Charles Michel expressed solidarity with Poland, apparently putting aside the recent heated disputes between Poland and the EU.
Morawiecki’s word echoed what Polish President Andrzej Duda said before: “This is a hybrid action carried out by the Belarusian regime against Poland and the EU”, an operation that was allegedly orchestrated by Belarusian security forces to bring thousands of migrants to the EU.
Even Horst Seehofer, the German Interior Minister, said that Lukashenko was using migrants to “destabilize the West”, “clearly with the support of Putin”. It is not clear exactly on what these allegations are based.
Predictably, Ukrainian experts and politicians too have joined the chorus of accusations against Russia. Former Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin called the crisis a Russian special operation. Ukrainian experts and politicians have traditionally seen the hand of Moscow in much of what has happened on the international scene in the past few years.
According to Polish sources around 3,000 people gathered near the border between Belarus and Poland, hoping to enter the EU. Polish officials say that more than 10,000 migrants were elsewhere in Belarus, waiting to get into the EU as well.
Western observers purport to see potential evidence that Lukashenko was effectively orchestrating a flow of migrants towards the EU. There are at least 47 scheduled flights per week from Middle Eastern locations at the moment.
Reports say that travel agencies in Iraqi Kurdistan, where many of the migrants come from, have offered visas to Belarus and flights either through Turkey or the United Arab Emirates. Is this proof enough that Belarus is engineering this new migrant crisis? Certainly, it is hard to say that Lukashenko “flew the migrants in”, like the most prominent accusers of the Belarusian President claim. Belarusian authorities have not forced anyone to come to Belarus.
While the images from the Polish may lead some people to think of the refugee crisis of 2015, when Germany alone accepted around 1 million migrants from the Middle East, these numbers are not even remotely comparable. It is not clear how around 10 thousand asylum seekers could “destabilize the West”. Only a few years ago one hundred times more migrants with a similar background were welcome into the EU with open arms and celebrated as cultural enrichment.
For more than a year, after the disputed 2020 Belarusian Presidential elections, that the West does not recognize, the EU, and in particular countries like Poland and Lithuania have pursued a hard and uncompromising hostile course towards the Belarusian government. It is hard to imagine how the Western approach could possibly more hostile, without coming to an open declaration of war.
By giving asylum to the leaders of the aborted Belarusian revolution, who have often called for sanctions against the Belarusian state, in the hope that this would lead to a regime change, Poland, Lithuania and other EU and NATO countries have de facto abdicated from normal diplomatic relations with Belarus.
Over the past few weeks, Lukashenko repeatedly said that because of the sanctions imposed on his country, he could not longer stop the influx of migrants from Belarus to the European Union. The EU imposed new sanctions on Belarus in May after Belarus escorted a Ryanair airplane flying through its airspace to the ground and arrested Roman Protasevich, whom the West insists on calling a “dissident journalist”, an “opposition blogger”, but who in reality had been a former volunteer fighter in Ukraine in a far right battalion and one of the main figures behind the Telegram channel NEXTA, that coordinated the protests vowed at overthrowing the Belarusian government last year.
The EU seems intent on responding with yet more sanctions placed on Belarus. It is not clear how this new hostile act from the EU should make Belarus change its course. Poland and the EU since at least a year have de facto engaged in sedition in Belarus, with the ultimate goal of removing Lukashenko.
It is irrational to expect that these actions should provoke anything other than a hostile reaction from Belarus. It’s simple physics. However, Poland and the West appear to believe that they exist as the sole powerful force in a vacuum where basic physical laws do not apply. It is a delusion that borders on insanity.