Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania’s defense ministers announced Thursday that a migrant crisis in Belarus poised a security risk along hundreds of miles of the European Union’s eastern border. A accompanying statement from Estonia’s top diplomat described the situation on the ground.
As Voice of America reports:
“They have been luring thousands of third-country nationals to Belarus, issuing them tourist visas, bringing them to the European Union-Belarus border and forcing them to illegally cross to neighboring countries,” Estonian Foreign Minister Eva-Maria Liimets told a virtual informal meeting of the U.N. Security Council that her nation organized.
“The objective of the authorities of Belarus with this hybrid action and manipulation of human beings has been to destabilize its neighboring countries and divert attention from increasing human rights violations in Belarus,” Liimets said.
A Manufactured Crisis
Indeed, Belarus’ autocratic leader Alyaksandr Lukashenka provoked this crisis by using his country’s government-owned airline to fly refugees from Syria, Yemen and Iraq to freezing camps on the Belarusian frontier, where they are prodded to illegally cross the border into the European Union.
Not only do the migrants represent a security concern, accusations have emerged that Belarus is hiding spies in their ranks. Rumor has it that some double agents belong to established terrorist organizations.
As a result, Poland has mobilized thousands of troops along its border with Belarus. The troop escalation on both sides has led to impromptu exchanges of gunfire. Meanwhile, the Polish parliament is debating whether or not the country should build a $400 million border wall.
Ultimately, Lukashenka’s manufactured crisis is his revenge against sanctions imposed by the EU.
And Multidimensional Attack
But it’s more than a humanitarian disaster and national security concern. Faced with the possibility of new sanctions, Lukashenka said on Thursday that he may shut off the shipment of natural gas from Russia to Europe.
BBC News adds:
“We are heating Europe, and they are threatening us,” he said, referring to a Russian gas pipeline that runs through Belarus and into the EU.
“And what if we halt natural gas supplies? Therefore, I would recommend the leadership of Poland, Lithuanians and other empty-headed people to think before speaking.”
Experts have differing opinions on the seriousness of Lukashenka’s latest threat, given the damage it would cause his own country—regardless, he’s known for being irrational. Still, Lukashenka’s senior partner, Vladimir Putin, may keep him on a tight leash this time. The gas isn’t Belarus’ after all.
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