Why Lukashenko seems to be winning the migrant battle with Brussels
The crisis on the Belarus-Poland border is reaching boiling point. Not only has there been a war of words between political leaders, but now there are military exercises and troops being deployed on either side.
One result of the crisis, which involves around 4,000 migrants left in limbo at the border, has been that fighting talk has broken out between the European Union and Belarus. Threats have been made by either side, although I would argue one side has the upper hand, and it is not Brussels.
Before I get to my point, some background information: the EU and NATO believe the Belarusian regime, headed by long-standing president Alexander Lukashenko, is purposely manufacturing the migrant crisis in response to sanctions that were imposed on it earlier this year.
The Belarusian government is accused of flying migrants into Minsk from the Middle East and of marching them to the border. It is also claimed that another 15,000 migrants are in the Belarusian capital waiting to be moved on to the border region, although this has been denied by the government. On Wednesday it was announced that the EU was close to agreeing a new set of sanctions to be imposed on Belarus, which will target influential individuals and the country’s national airline.
In response, Lukashenko said “if they impose additional sanctions on us... we must respond … we are heating Europe, and they are threatening us, 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.”
The crisis has escalated in recent days. United States vice-president Kamala Harris has warned that “the Lukashenko regime, I believe is engaged in very troubling activity … and the eyes of the world and its leaders are watching what is happening there.”
It has also been announced that the UK is sending a number of troops to the Polish-Belarusian border to provide “engineer support.” Personally, I would rather that these soldiers were used to deal with the chaos going on in the English Channel, where migrants also are dying. Russia, too, has conducted military exercises in the region over the past days.
In the midst of all this posturing and threats being made, the real victims are the migrants, who remain marooned in a no-man's-land. With the winter setting in and temperatures falling, many will literally freeze to death if a solution is not found, fast.
But that does not get away from the fact that Lukashenko is in the driving seat, and the threats made by Brussels and others pale into insignificance if he decides to turn off the gas.
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The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.