Russia Monitor is a review of the most important events related to Russian internal and external security, as well as its foreign policies.
Date: 9 November 2021
Crisis on the Border Between Belarus and the EU. Russia Enters the Game
From the beginning, the Russian Federation has supported, and perhaps even inspired, Alyaksandr Lukashenka’s hybrid war against neighbouring EU and NATO countries. It has achieved its first goal, namely the escalation of migrant attacks directed by Belarusian services primarily at the border of Poland. Now Moscow is embarking on the next stage of the operation: it will seek to assume the role of mediator between the Lukashenko regime and the EU. This is supposed to bring it, on the one hand, a strengthening of its control over Belarus and, on the other, a strengthening of its position in Europe. There may be a larger plan, encompassing not only Belarus but also other disputed points on the Russia-Western line, with Ukraine at the forefront.
Moscow remained silent for the first months of the crisis on the Belarusian border with Poland, Lithuania and Latvia,. Although, the Russian services had to be involved in this hybrid war with migrants. Russia waited patiently until the situation is so dramatic that it becomes the focus of attention no longer only for Poland, Lithuania and a few other EU countries, but also for Brussels, the US and NATO. On November 4th, Putin and Lukashenko talked about the situation on the border. Shortly afterwards, Belarusian services moved a large (at least 1,000 people) column of migrants to the Polish border crossing point in Kuźnica. The border was stormed, but repulsed by Polish services and the army. This was accompanied by a media campaign by Belarus and Russia to convince the EU that this could be a repeat of 2015. With the atmosphere of danger growing, the day after the attempted assault, on November 9th, the head of the Russian Foreign Ministry spoke out. Sergei Lavrov compared the situation on the Polish-Belarusian border with the wave of refugees from Turkish territory. The head of Russian diplomacy says that if the EU helped Turkey financially with refugees then, it could do the same in the case of Belarus. In this way Lavrov shows Brussels a way out of the current situation without losing face. The sanctions will remain, but at the same time cashflow from the European Union to Belarus will allow Lukashenko to survive the sanctions. This seems to be only the first such probe of the EU’s attitude on Moscow’s part. Given that there was also another phone conversation between Putin and Lukashenko about the border crisis on November 9th, and the Kremlin has admitted that it is in constant contact with Minsk (including in the area of secret services), it can be expected that if there are no positive reactions from the EU to Lavrov’s first offer, there will be further attacks on the border.
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