“The European Union has for too long underestimated the implications of the serious crisis brewing in the East”

THEhe geopolitical puzzle of Eastern Europe is once again in the spotlight. Since 2015, when the war in Donbass was placed in the “political freezer” called “Normandy format” [destiné à encadrer les discussions entre la Russie, l’Ukraine, la France et l’Allemagne], recurring tensions between Moscow and the eastern members of the European Union (EU) have rarely been of concern beyond the region’s borders.

The democratic protests of 2020 in Belarus have generated widespread sympathy in Europe. Their brutal crackdown by Alexander Lukashenko was followed by four rounds of limited sanctions against the regime – after which Europeans turned to more pressing issues.

But what many saw as a manageable stalemate was just an extremely fragile status quo. Today, its foundations are crumbling and the European Union (EU) must pay full attention to it. The stakes could not be more serious: it is about the security of the EU, its values ​​and its capacity to act.

Repression of the democratic movement

On the eastern border of Poland, several thousand desperate migrants, deceived and betrayed by the Belarusian dictator, are trying to enter the EU. Lukashenko is looking for a recognition that the West refuses him because of his repression of the democratic movement and the imprisonment of hundreds of his political opponents.

At the same time, some 100,000 heavily armed Russian soldiers are massing on the border with Ukraine. It is a confusing reminder: Vladimir Putin has never given up on pursuing his goal of bringing Kiev into line.

Read also Article reserved for our subscribers “Almost eight years after the annexation of Crimea, Ukraine remains central in the geopolitical confrontation between Europe and Russia”

The migratory crisis could help Putin to divert the attention of the Europeans, in view of a possible aggression of Ukraine. Putin and Lukashenko, as everyone knows, are not the best friends in the world, but they play on the same team. As Lukashenko threatens to cut gas exports to the EU, Putin plays with carefully calibrated ambiguity. Russian military planes conspicuously fly over – at Belarusian request – the border region bordering Poland. And both Russian and Belarusian media are increasing propaganda campaigns punctuated by threats against the territorial integrity of Poland and Ukraine.

Cruel dictators, bluffing, blackmail, misinformation and connectivity traps – these are the ingredients of a new kind of conflict which is now testing the resilience and resolve of the EU. The boundaries between classic warfare and non-military confrontation are blurred. It is also difficult to discern the intentions behind the provocations. Eastern Europe faces perhaps its most serious crisis in years, a crisis that threatens to upend its fragile stability.

You have 64.48% of this article left to read. The rest is for subscribers only.

source site-29