President Gitanas Nausėda of Lithuania argued this weekend that NATO needed to respond to the integration of Belarusian and Russian armed forces, after claims that the current European border crisis was engineered by the Russian government. According to Reuters, Nausėda believes that Belarus is “testing” NATO’s unity due to the European Union (EU) imposing sanctions on Belarus after the controversial election last year. European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen along with NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg met with Lithuanian and Latvian leaders to present a united front against their suspected antagonizers. TRT World reports that Stoltenberg has also since called for Russia to de-escalate its increased militarization on the Ukrainian border to avoid consequences from NATO. There has been an abnormal expansion of tanks, artillery, drones, and troops on the Ukrainian border in conjunction with the migrant crisis on the border of the EU. Belarus has denied that it had any involvement in creating the “hybrid threat” as it has been accused of. Von der Leyen also affirmed that Lithuania has humanely responded to the crisis, as well as the EU aiding the border countries of Latvia, Lithuania, and Poland by providing 200 million euros for border control.
A hybrid threat, as TRT World defines it, is “a security challenge combining traditional military means and non-military tactics such as disinformation.” Stoltenberg has described Russian and Belarusian actions as such due to their “unprovoked and unexplained” nature and has called on Russia “to be transparent, to reduce tensions, and to de-escalate. NATO remains vigilant. We stand ready to defend all allies.” President Nausėda remains concerned that Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko’s “regime and the powers that support it will continue to test the western world’s unity and their ability to react and repel the hybrid attacks.” Von der Leyen has said that “it is important that the European Union and NATO work hand in hand… we are testing and coordinating our crisis response during regular exercises; and we are stepping up our coordination.”
While it is reasonable to assume that Belarus and Russia may be collaborating on a hybrid threat against the EU, international powers are forgetting a very important part of the crisis— the migrants. Thousands of Middle Eastern migrants are being blocked from entering the EU, but also are unable to go back to their home countries for a multitude of reasons. It is important to decrease tensions between the two coalitions, but it is also necessary to protect the vulnerable migrant population. According to Reuters, 13 migrants have died at the Polish border due to inaction from both governments. Many people are suffering while the larger powers refuse to negotiate their positions.
Politico reports there has been tension between Belarus and the EU due to a recent contested election in which Lukashenko was re-elected president, and in response, the EU enacted sanctions against Belarus. The election was deemed deeply flawed and numerous crackdowns against pro-democracy activists followed Lukashenko’s re-election. Lukashenko has said that the Belarusian government will help repatriate some of the migrants, but will not stop others from attempting to make their way into the EU. He argues that he has no reason to protect the EU due to their treatment of him in the past. The EU has also threatened airlines carrying people from the Middle East to Minsk, in Belarus, in an attempt to lessen the number of migrants. Ukraine’s government has also mentioned that they are worried about a sudden increase of migrants supported by both Belarusian and Russian officials. It believes that Russia wants to cripple the EU by orchestrating multiple crises, one after the other.
Both the EU and NATO as well as Belarus and Russia are causing harm to the communities affected by the migrant crisis. By funding border control instead of coming up with solutions to house migrants, it is reasonable to assume that more people will end up injured or deceased. The Middle Eastern migrants are being used as puppets by the eastern governments, and are being ignored by the west. It is essential that these migrants are treated as human beings, and not just as pawns or an annoyance.
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