The President of Belarus, Alyaksandr Lukashenka, will stop sending migrants to the Polish border when he gets what he wants or when the costs of this action are higher than the potential benefits, said Marek Menkiszak, head of the Russian Center for Eastern Studies, in an interview with TVN24. According to him, “everything in between will lead to the continuation of this hybrid operation.”
When asked when Alyaksandr Lukashenka would cease his activities, Marek Menkiszak mentioned two possibilities. – First, when he gets what he wants. And these are several things. Recognize your legitimacy as president of Belarus and establish direct political dialogue. (…) Blockade of serious sanctions, especially economic ones, against Belarus. (…) Gradual lifting of sanctions against Belarus, and even better, offering economic support and cessation of support for civil society in Belarus. This, of course, is the most difficult and far-reaching postulate – he listed.
– The second possibility when Lukashenka and his supporters may consider suspending or limiting this operation is when the costs of this action will be higher than the potential benefits. In short, the sanctions and economic actions against Belarus will be so serious on the part of the European Union and the United States that they will threaten an economic collapse in Belarus and will indirectly hit Russia, which is not interested in such a scenario, he explained.
– We have two possibilities. Anything in between, i.e. small concessions to Lukashenka or small sanctions against Belarus, will in fact lead to the continuation of this hybrid operation, he assessed.
The West fears escalation
The OSW expert believes that “key Western countries are concerned about the possibility of a further escalation of this crisis”. – It’s not just a matter of having a wave of artificially induced migration. The point is that Lukashenka openly threatened that the migrants would be given arms and that a hot, military phase of the conflict would arise, he explained.
– There is a fear that the Belarusian services will use weapons from behind the migrants’ backs against Polish officials, provoking a border conflict and triggering a crisis that may escalate further. This is a scenario that causes efforts to be made in Berlin, but also in other European capitals, to reduce tension and prevent this escalation, he noted.
However, he added, “the problem is that the other side sees this and recognizes that the intimidation tactic is working, and therefore there is no reason to back down from continuing this operation.”
“Russia shows the West that it needs to be talked to”
When asked about Russia’s participation in the migration crisis, the TVN24 guest pointed out that “we do not have hard evidence that Russia has planned everything and that Lukashenka is only the producer”. – It is rather that the idea arose during consultations. We know that at many levels (…), both before and during this crisis, very intensive consultations took place, also openly, on the issues of border policy strategies, he said.
– Russian secret services probably support Belarusian services abroad in organizing transit channels. The Belarusian services are too weak to do this. They do not have such means and resources, he noted. According to the expert, however, “interests” are of key importance. – The interests of Russia and the Belarusian regime coincide here. Russia wants to force recognition and dialogue with the Belarusian regime so that the sanctions are not tightened, he assessed.
Besides, “Russia puts itself in the center as a kind of political intermediary.” – Russia is increasing its political importance. Russia shows the West that it is necessary to talk to it, that the path of sanctions and pressure is ineffective, that it can organize further problems, threaten the West and must be negotiated with, said Menkiszak.
Lukashenka and Putin “hoped for deep divisions”
According to the TVN24 guest, Russia and Belarus also see the border of the European Union and NATO in the Polish border. – Both Lukashenka and Putin did not expect such hard resistance from the Polish side. They expected that there would be a humanitarian crisis that could paralyze the response from the Polish side and they probably did not count on such a level of solidarity on the part of European institutions, European countries and the United States in the face of this crisis – he noted.
– They counted on deep divisions and political chaos inside Poland. They counted on deep divisions within the European Union and NATO in dealing with this challenge. They counted on humanitarian reflexes and referring to human rights, and that this would make Western countries helpless in the face of this crisis, he said. As he added, “Russia and Belarus seem to feel a little bit that it is not as effective as they hoped for now, but the conclusion they are drawing is that pressure should be continued”.
Main photo source: Territorial Defense Forces