Poland’s suspension of work on the Bobrovniki border checkpoint may signal further deterioration in bilateral relations.
On February 9th, Mariusz Kamiński, the Polish Minister of Internal Affairs, ordered the suspension of work on the Bobrovniki checkpoint on the Belarusian-Polish border. We can expect a tightening of customs control at the remaining checkpoints; however, border issues are only one aspect of the Minister’s agenda. Mr Kaminsky also instructed to prepare proposals for adding additional Belarusian officials to sanctions lists on national security grounds. These actions follow an appeal from the Polish Sejm regarding Belarusian policy towards its Polish minority.
Only two of the six checkpoints on the Belarusian-Polish border operating before COVID are operational today. Minsk has previously stated that closing the Bobrovniki checkpoint may lead to a crisis in the border region due to excess traffic at the two remaining checkpoints.
The Polish decision may aggravate not only Belarusian-Polish relations but also what remains of relations between Minsk and the European Union. Other European countries neighbouring Belarus may introduce similar restrictions in solidarity with Warsaw.
Minsk will inevitably have to respond in some way, but each retaliatory action will provoke additional measures from Warsaw. The Polish government will not make concessions nor allow Minsk’s actions to go unanswered. Polish parliamentary elections take place in autumn this year; the ruling party cannot afford to show weakness or passivity.
The period of relative stability (albeit at an extremely low level) in bilateral Belarusian-Polish relations following the 2021 migration crisis has ended. Confrontation is again on the agenda, and neither party has much room for political and diplomatic de-escalations. There is a high probability we will witness symbolic military activity on both sides of the Belarusian-Polish border as the Polish parliamentary elections approach.