Poland has further restricted border traffic from its neighbor to the east, Belarus. This announcement was made on Monday, February 20th after Belarus expelled three Polish diplomats from the country. Freight traffic from Belarus at the border was suspended the next day at the Kukuryki-Kozlowicze border crossing between the two countries. According to Reuters, the Polish Interior Ministry attributed the blockage of the border crossing to Belarus curbing traffic of Polish road freights from Latvia and Lithuania. This came after Poland already closed a border crossing at Bobrowniki on February 9th, citing state security.
Before Poland decided to close the border crossing on the 20, two Polish consuls were told to leave Belarus by the following Wednesday, according to Polish Foreign Ministry Lukasz Jasina. “We are thinking about a good and proper response to this,” Jasina said. According to Reuters, Belarus called the initial closing of the Bobrowniki crossing dangerous, but their foreign ministry could not be reached about the Kukuryki-Kozlowicze closure.
Poland and Belarus have conflicted historically, and this past year has pushed their relations to a new low. According to Reuters, Poland has been one of the most important refuges for opponents to Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko, who has been president of the country since 1994. According to his biography on Britannica, Lukashenko was the only deputy in 1991 to oppose the agreement to dissolve the Soviet Union. He has remained close with conservative communist groups in independent Belarus and Russia. He is also one of Putin’s biggest allies, whereas Poland has been one of Ukraine’s staunchest and most vital supporters since Russia’s armies invaded last February.
Geographically, Poland is in a dangerous position, as Belarus borders it directly to the east and Russia lies just beyond. However, the NATO country lies in a vital position with its border shared with Ukraine, allowing for refugees to flee to Poland and resources to flow into the war-torn country. I see the decision to close both the Bobrowniki and Kukuryki-Kozlowicze crossings to be the correct one. Due to Poland’s protection by NATO – protection that Ukraine does not have – the country is able to put more economic and geographical pressure on Belarus as possible. As for the other NATO countries, they need to give as much protection to Poland and other nearby NATO countries as possible to make this possible.
As violence prevails in Eastern Europe, global solutions must occur. Countries such as Poland are already working to put pressure on the invaders of Ukraine without directly getting involved. It’s of vital importantance that the other NATO countries and other countries assist Poland with these efforts.