The responsibility for the crisis lies entirely with Lukashenka. This is a deliberate provocation against the EU, in particular Poland and Lithuania. By sending migrants to the borders, they hope, on the one hand, to provoke the Polish border guards to a reaction, on the other hand, to divert attention from the problems of Belarus. They themselves say: “We are ready to stop the crisis, just start a dialogue with us.” Since no one is going to conduct a dialogue with Lukashenka on the principles of blackmail, he simply escalates the situation.
Then everything will depend on how tough and fast the European Union reacts. The migration crisis can be stopped overnight if the response from the international community is strong and unanimous. Now the EU is talking not just about a hybrid attack, but about a deliberate military provocation of the Lukashenka regime. It is now mobilizing the EU.
Lukashenka burns bridges not only in the short term, drawing attention away from his domestic political problems, but also in the long term. After this provocation, which involved thousands or tens of thousands of innocent people, he simply ceases to be a party to the negotiations. If someone still had doubts or uncertainty, someone admitted the possibility of a dialogue with Lukashenka, now he is making himself an absolute outcast.
The Polish military is trying to resolve the crisis as correctly as possible, accepting children and pregnant women into the country, but at the same time building a fence with barbed wire. Lukashenka is raising the stakes more and more, already playing all-in. I would not be surprised if Belarusian border guards disguised as migrants start shelling the territory of Poland. There have already been such cases in history that very often led to the collapse of the regime. Lukashenka is digging a hole for himself.
It is not so important what Warsaw’s response will be, but what the EU’s response will be. This is a test for the European Union, how quickly it can take uniform measures. This requires the consent of all 27 countries, including those who are very cautious about Eastern Europe and about Lukashenka.
The solution to the crisis will depend on whether Poland and Lithuania can mobilize the EU to make a common decision within a week. Lukashenko still hopes that there will be no strong reaction, but we know that the European Union is considering the possibility of completely closing the borders with Belarus, including for cargo. In addition, sanctions are being considered against Belavia, Belarusian airports and the companies that serve them, against equipment for air travel. This will hit the regime, but, unfortunately, it will also affect ordinary Belarusians. Meetings of the Polish government and leadership, as well as European leaders are now taking place, at which the application of Articles 4 and 5 of the NATO Collective Protection Treaty is being considered. The development of events can be very unsettling.
In the case of Ryanair, Lukashenko did not expect that such serious sectoral sanctions would be adopted and this would happen as quickly as it happened in June. Lukashenka is playing on raising rates realizing that large-scale decisions are not easy for the EU. Now he is taking advantage of the fact that Germany does not yet have a new government. Berlin usually acts as the locomotive of EU policy and strong decisions are not made without Germany, so he hopes that their adoption for the EU will be delayed.
The decisive date is November 15, when the ministers will have to accept the sanctions package against Lukashenka for the migration crisis. On December 8 and 9, American sanctions against Belaruskali will come into force, and this may also become a turning point. We see that Iraq has begun cooperation with democratic countries and is closing Lukashenka’s consulates in order to block the issuance of visas to illegal migrants. Lukashenka is trying to reorient this process to other countries, because in addition to a political provocation for the regime, the migration crisis also has an economic dimension – Lukashenka receives a lot of money from trade, transportation, accompanying smuggling and other things. It is also a huge business project for him.