Editorial of the “World”. The ignoble instrumentalisation of migrants by the Belarusian regime, which, a few months ago, could appear as the latest local outrage of an eccentric dictator, is on the way to turning into a serious international crisis.
Whatever Minsk’s denials may be, the facts are now established. Thanks to the testimonies of victims and the inquiries carried out by the media, they are indisputable: the Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko has since the summer organized air routes to attract migrants and asylum seekers from the Middle East to his country by making them to dangle a passage to the European Union (EU).
Once in Belarus, they are actively pressured to cross the border illegally with Lithuania and Poland. Many are then pushed back and some 2,000 of them are currently stranded in the glacial forest between the two borders. On the ground, the humanitarian situation is dramatic; at least eight people have already died.
This is, clearly, an aggression against the border countries which harbor the Belarusian opposition in exile and, beyond, against the EU. The European leaders have finally taken the measure of this operation which they now qualify as“Hybrid attack”, an expression used by the Balts from the beginning but which Brussels considered excessive.
The real lever is in Moscow
While in Washington, Commission President Ursula von der Leyen spoke to President Joe Biden. “This is not a migratory crisis, did she say. This is an attempt at destabilization led by an authoritarian regime against its democratic neighbors. The whole of the EU is being challenged. “
What can the EU do? Take a new round of sanctions against Minsk, with all their imperfections. Raise the issue at the UN, as France, Ireland and Estonia did on Thursday, November 11, by calling an emergency meeting of the Security Council, which resulted in a joint declaration of Westerners asking Belarus to stop. Act with the airlines involved. Going to see the leaders of the countries of departure, when possible, to ensure that they do not become complicit in this human trafficking: this is what European Commissioner Margaritis Schinas has undertaken.
The real lever, however, lies in Moscow. Chancellor Angela Merkel called twice in two days for President Vladimir Putin, who began by responding to her to address Lukashenko directly – whose legitimacy the EU does not recognize. The public remarks of the head of the Russian diplomacy, Sergei Lavrov, illustrate the complete cynicism of Moscow in the affair: it is clear that the embarrassment in which this crisis plunges the EU plays the game of the Kremlin.
Europe must not give in to Lukashenko’s intimidation or threats to cut off the supply of Russian gas passing through his country. A firm attitude, including on the protection of the EU’s borders, is the only one possible. In the immediate future, an imperative is urgently needed: resolve the disastrous humanitarian situation on the Polish border, with the help of the High Commissioner for Refugees, in order to avoid a larger tragedy. This implies that Warsaw agrees to cooperate with European structures, despite its differences with Brussels. Poland can only overcome this crisis with the EU. Because if the sovereignty of Europe is threatened, hers will not be worth much.