Belarusian-European security relations are at risk of deteriorating to such an extent that recovery will be impossible without a replacement regime in Minsk.
Lithuania has begun to build a fence along the border with Belarus to curb the flow of illegal migrants from third countries. The Lithuanian government has declared a state of emergency and accused the Belarusian regime at the highest level of deliberately engineering the crisis. The Lithuanian Seimas (Parliament) voted to:
- Classify the growth of illegal migration via Belarus as hybrid aggression.
- Recognise that the Belarusian-Russian «West-2021» exercise may constitute a new threat to Lithuanian security.
- Propose that the Lithuanian Armed Forces be deployed to strengthen border security with Belarus.
- Consider undocumented Illegal migrants (except for women with children, pregnant women, disabled people and children under 16 years of age) as potential actors in a hybrid attack and detain them accordingly.
- Begin consultations with NATO member states regarding the threat to Lithuania’s territorial integrity, political independence, and security should the situation fail to improve.
Latvia and Poland also consider the Belarusian-Lithuanian migrant crisis a potential threat. Warsaw reports that Polish border guards detained at least 150 illegal immigrants from Afghanistan, Cuba and Chechnya in less than a month and Riga is considering reinforcing its own border guard by deploying the National Guard;
The Belarusian-Polish border is at its highest state of alert since Soviet times when it was an external border of the USSR. The situation with illegal migration is not yet as dramatic as with Lithuania. Still, if events progress as they currently are, it is only a matter of time before Warsaw also accuses Minsk of provoking a migration crisis.
We are witnessing a gradual transformation of the EU perception of the Belarusian regime from «unpleasant, but useful for regional security» to «threat to regional security». This trend may be impossible to reverse, and further deterioration should be expected, not only in the field of border security. It is embarrassing that as recently as a couple of years ago, European officials in private conversations with Belarusian civil activists stated that Europe’s priority vs Belarus was the security and containment of Russia rather than human rights and democratic standards in Belarus itself.