A new point of acute East-West tension has emerged on the Polish-Belarusian border. Minsk and the West have been at loggerheads since August 2020, when Belarus’s strongman, Alyaksandr Lukashenka (ruling since 1994) declared himself reelected for a sixth consecutive presidential term in office. Massive protests erupted in Belarus, which the regime eventually ruthlessly suppressed. Opposition activists were imprisoned or fled abroad. Most Western governments have refused to recognize Lukashenka as the legitimate leader and imposed punitive sanctions. Lukashenka replied by threatening to allow an unchecked flow of illegal migrants and narcotics into Europe (Interfax, May 26). Lukashenka has accused the West of plotting to overthrow him and waging a “hybrid war” against his regime. A massive flow of narcotics from Belarus into Europe has not yet materialized, but the migrant crisis has. In the summer of 2021, first a trickle of mostly Middle Eastern migrants began to arrive at the borders of Lithuania, Poland and Latvia. By November, that trickle has swelled into flood, with thousands of migrants, amassed in makeshift camps on the Polish-Belarusian border, attempting to break through a barbed-wire security fence and cross into European Union territory. Their ultimate goal is to enter Germany and seek refugee status. Over ten thousand Polish border guards, police and military personnel are holding the line on the other side. Clashes have been reported and teargas used as the situation has continued to escalate day after day (Kommersant, November 11).
Belarus as Latest Front in Acute East-West Standoff – Jamestown