Poland and Belarus: From Cooperation to Confrontation

Status: 23.10.2021 12:58 p.m.

A peaceful coexistence between Poland and Belarus has turned into a dangerous stalker in the wake of the migrant crisis. There have already been shots at the shared border – even if only with blank cartridges.

By Jan Pallokat, ARD Studio Warsaw

Belarus and Poland had a very peaceful coexistence for a long time, quite cooperatively. That has changed since the Belarusian ruler Alexander Lukashenko expanded his country into a kind of smugglers’ highway. The Polish border guard spokeswoman Anna Michalska reports that the people are brought to the border and given information on where to cross them.

Jan Pallokat
ARD studio Warsaw

Your opponent is not the illegal migrant, but the Belarusian services, which would definitely help. Including the Belarusian border guard, which until recently was Poland’s partner in securing the border.

Since soldiers and other forces are also deployed, the situation is explosive. The Polish side recently reported that shots with blank cartridges had already been fired. The US embassy in Warsaw expressed concern and indirectly confirmed the incident.

“The West doesn’t care”

With hundreds of migrants caught between these fronts, who sometimes freeze to death in the border forest after days of odyssey, Lukashenko savored the disaster he helped to create in his own way. “Injured, badly battered people, and there are more and more of them,” he said on Belarusian state television. “This is of course causing great concern – for us in Belarus and for everyone who understands humanity. The climate is harsh and we will see many dead.” But as it turns out, the West doesn’t care, Lukashenko continued. He won’t help people. And once again the Belarusians would have to do it.

In contrast to migrants from the Middle East, who are regularly “rejected” by Poland, as it is officially called, Poles freely issue humanitarian visas to persecuted Belarusians. For example in the case of the sprinter Timanovskaya, who fled Tokyo during the Olympic Games, who is now training in the neighboring country and wants to become a Polish woman.

Strengthen resistance with a visa

Warsaw also tried to strengthen Belarusian civil society and resistance to the Lukashenko regime by generously issuing tourist and other entry visas, explained Marcin Przydacz from the Foreign Ministry in early summer – before the start of the migrant crisis and under the impression the mass protests against the regime in Minsk.

“With the aim that the Belarusians see a perspective. And with the difference that they not only come to Poland to study and work, but also go shopping or visit tourists,” said Przydacz about the issuing of a visa. In his impression, that helped them to find themselves and to call for a real state of their own.

Kidnapping and torture

Due to the border shifts after the Second World War, many people of Orthodox faith now live in eastern Poland – and numerous residents of Polish origin in Belarus. Members of this minority were themselves the target of repression after the mass demonstrations. The Polish journalist Andrzej Poczobut, for example, disappeared in the torture cellars of the Belarusian regime, as did the minority activist Andzelika Borys.

Ales Zarembiuk of the Belarusian House in Warsaw says they were only arrested because they were Poles. “Lukashenko thought that with hostages like Poczobut or Borys he could force Poland to stop supporting the Belarusians’ struggle for freedom and democracy,” said Zarembiuk.

Between the lines

Politically, Poland advocates the carrot and stick: the EU has a multi-billion dollar development program in place in the event of change in the neighboring country, while Poland regularly advocates strict sanctions. In Warsaw, however, we also know that this instrument will at some point be exhausted, but that Belarus will still be on the map as a difficult neighbor.

But a neighbor whose mailbox is much further to the east reminds Pawel Kowal, a former deputy foreign minister: “In reality, nobody speaks to Lukashenko because everyone knows that it is a conversation with Putin. Everything we want to change or negotiate , goes over Putin. “

Tense: Relations between Poland and Belarus

Jan Pallokat, ARD Warsaw, 23.10.2021 · 11:30


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