There are few things as disappointing as two relatively nationalist administrations coming to blows. Yet that is what is happening on the Polish-Belarussian border.
Following an attempt at astro-turfing a revolution similar to what toppled the Yanukovych regime in Ukraine, Belarus and the Western powers have been in a geopolitical stand-off.
Where previously Lukashenko had flirted with the idea of coming closer to the European bloc (much to the chagrin of Vladimir Putin), the instigation of the attempted revolution has placed Belarus firmly back within the orbit of the Russian Federation.
Following Lukashenko’s put down of the American putsch attempt, as well as his diversion of a flight in order to capture (and potentially torture) an individual who has been described as a dissident journalist, the European Union imposed progressively tighter measures against Belarus.
“The new targeted economic sanctions include the prohibition to directly or indirectly sell, supply, transfer or export to anyone in Belarus equipment, technology or software intended primarily for use in the monitoring or interception of the internet and of telephone communications, and dual-use goods and technologies for military use and to specified persons, entities or bodies in Belarus.”
“Trade in petroleum products, potassium chloride (‘potash’), and goods used for the production or manufacturing of tobacco products is restricted. Furthermore, access to EU capital markets is restricted, and providing insurance and re-insurance to the Belarusian government and Belarusian public bodies and agencies is prohibited.”
“Lastly, the European Investment Bank will stop any disbursement or payment under any existing agreements in relation to projects in the public sector, and any existing Technical Assistance Service Contracts.”
“Member states will also be required to take actions to limit the involvement in Belarus of multilateral development banks of which they are members (…) A total of 166 persons and 15 entities are currently subject to restrictive measures, which comprise an asset freeze applicable to both individuals and entities, and travel ban on individuals.”
In response, Lukashenko has struck back in a way that is in plain terms, quite effective.
By flying in migrants from the Middle East and directing them to the European border, Lukashenko is effectively creating another destabilisation route into Europe.
Polish guards are holding the line at this point in time and the European Commission is, for now, backing the Polish Government on the issue.
In a game of brinkmanship however, the Europeans will undoubtedly blink first, and either try to force Poland to allow migrants into the European Union (and offer to redistribute across the bloc), or pay Lukashenko in the same way Erdogan was paid to stop the tide from the south.
While this is a good move on the part of the Belarussians, this author simply cannot countenance the use of migration as a weapon against a European country, particularly one led by nationalist-conservatives like PiS.
One would hope the Europeans and the Belarussians will put down the sabres and, instead, both lift sanctions on the regime and stop the flow of migrants into Europe.