- The European Union has accused Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko of weaponizing the tens of thousands of refugees trapped in cold camps along the Polish border to jeopardize EU security
- Experts are split on whether Minsk’s uncompromising tone will translate into significant policy action, with much depending on Lukashenko’s long-time partner, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s geopolitical priorities.
Threats by Belarus to Europe
If the EU imposes penalties over a migrant problem at its western border, Belarus has threatened to cut off its gas transit to Europe.
The EU has accused Russian-backed President Alexander Lukashenko of using the tens of thousands of refugees gathering in cold camps along the border as a weapon. This was done with Poland to jeopardize EU security and divert attention away from domestic political pressures, which Belarus denies.
Lukashenko stated in an emergency cabinet meeting on Thursday that the country could shut off deliveries if the EU prepares a new wave of penalties. This includes Russia’s Yamal-Europe pipeline, putting even more pressure on European leaders as the continent continues to be plagued by the global energy crisis.
“We’re heating Europe, and they’re still threatening to close the borders,” the strongman leader, who has been in power since 1994, is said to have told cabinet officials.
“And what if we cut off [natural gas transmission] to them?” Hence, I would recommend leaders of Poland and Lithuania, and other brainless people, to think before talking.” Following remarks by Lukashenko stating that natural gas prices increased by 7% on Thursday.
Migrants from Syria, Iraq, and Yemen will be barred from entering Belarus at the request of the Turkish government.
The EU members of the United Nations Security Council, along with the United States, the United Kingdom, and Albania, issued a united statement condemning the “orchestrated instrumentalization of human beings.”
Dispute among experts
Experts are split on whether Minsk’s uncompromising tone will translate into significant policy action, with much depending on Lukashenko’s long-time partner, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s geopolitical priorities.
The issue “seems certain to intensify further,” according to Timothy Ash, the senior emerging-market sovereign strategist at Bluebay Asset Management.
“Putin would be delighted to see energy transit through Belarus disrupted since he can blame it on Lukashenko while adding pressure on Europe,” Ash wrote in an email on Thursday.
“It would also provide him a justification to interfere formally in Belarus itself – Russian planes appear to be patrolling Belarus’ NATO borders right now.” Belarus’ Defense Ministry and border forces, as well as state security, have been sent “to ensure control over the movement of NATO and Polish troops,” he said.
“You can already see 15,000 troops, tanks, armored vehicles, helicopters, and planes being deployed to our border without warning,” Trump stated.