Minsk once again invokes the “Polish threat”

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The Belarusian regime is once again trying to use the spectre of external threats to distract from domestic political problems.

On October 28th, while meeting with the Prosecutor General of Russia, Igor Krasnov, Lukashenka alleged that Poland was moving tanks to the Belarusian border in response to the migration crisis but reassured his audience that Minsk would respond. Lukashenka further suggested to his Russian guest that Moscow should also consider responding to provocations from Warsaw. Belarusian propaganda subsequently began to further develop the “Polish threat” thesis.

This is a case of manipulation based on bad faith interpretation of known facts. The deployment of two mechanized battalions of the 1st Warsaw Armoured Brigade to Biała Podlaska, located near the border with Belarus, was announced in April and is connected with a new military base that opened in July. Four battalions of the brigade, numbering some 2.5 thousand servicemen, and about 1 thousand members of Poland’s territorial defence forces will be stationed there. When the Biała Podlaska base opened, well before the migration crisis on the Belarusian-Polish border, it already hosted a “Leopard 2” armoured contingent, so nothing new was reported.

The “Polish threat” is obviously conjured up with an eye to the deteriorating relations with the Kremlin. After Vladimir Putin declined to attend the October summits of the CIS and the EAEU in Minsk, the events were held online. This was an unpleasant surprise for Minsk, which was preparing a reception for the heads of state. Events of this nature, held in person, in Minsk, would have been regarded by the Belarusian regime as a significant boost to “symbolic capital” against a background of deepening isolation in the international arena.

The online sessions were further modified at the request of Russia and the Supreme State Council of the so-called “union state” due to President Putin’s decision to visit Crimea.

By inventing imaginary threats from Poland, the Belarusian regime seeks to play on Russian anti-Polish sentiments, and enlist the support of the Kremlin. The fabricated narrative of Polish tanks moving against peaceful illegal immigrants is directed towards Belarusian-Russian political relations, not a hypothetical Belarusian-Polish military confrontation.

Belarus in focus