Categories
News

The Belarus-Poland Border Crisis and its consequences

Introduction

The Belarus-Polish border crisis has become the biggest challenge to the EU’s border in years.  The standoff between migrants and the Polish border guards seems to have been fueled by Belarus’ tensions with the EU. Although some migrants have managed to cross into Poland from Belarus over the past couple of weeks, Poland has recently strengthened its border and closed crossings in response to the crisis. For the Poles and EU member states, the aforementioned crisis is seen as an artificial one created by Belarus’ authoritarian president, Alexander Lukashenko, to get an advantage in the political game between the two.

Origins of the tensions

Since the beginning of November, there has been an influx of migrants from the Middle East [Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan] as well as other countries at the Belarus-Polish border. These migrants have been camped in the Białowieża Forest in freezing temperatures. According to a nonresident fellow at the Atlantic Council’s Eurasia Center, Hanna Liubakova, “it’s a terrible situation” for those caught in the camps without food or proper clothing. Several migrants trapped at the border have died due to the freezing conditions.

Lukashenko’s regime has denied the charge that his administration has been actively encouraging migrants to come to Minsk, before pushing them to the border, encouraging them to clash with Polish authorities. The migrants have come to the border with the hopes that they will cross into Poland since Belarus is not a member of the EU. Poland being a member represents a doorway into the EU and the promise of a better life for these migrants. (BBC)

Although the number of migrants at the border is roughly 4.000, it has become the EU’s biggest border challenge since 2015, when hundreds of thousands of migrants crossed from Turkey into Europe. More than a million migrants were eventually allowed into the union as a result. 

In the past week, Polish guards used water cannons and tear gas against stone-throwing migrants at the Kuznica-Bruzgi border crossing. Other scenes similar to this one have appeared on the border, supporting Lukashenko’s anti-EU agenda following the union’s sanctions imposed on his regime after the August 2020 elections. (New York Times)

Lukashenko’s hopes and aims

For more than 25 years, Lukashenko has remained the leader of Belarus, returning for a sixth-term as president in a vote which is widely considered fraudulent.

In May, Belarus forced an international flight to land in the capital of Belarus, Minsk, in order to apprehend Roman Prostasevich, a journalist, former editor and founder of an opposition blog and social media channel. The outrageous act prompted the EU to impose retaliatory sanctions. Shortly after, Alexander Lukashenko hinted at the ability for Belarus to quickly stir up a migrant crisis against the neighboring EU member states — Poland, Lithuania, and Latvia.

“Lukashenko wants to show his revenge for sanctions,” says Liubakova of the Eurasia Center. But the leader also wants to switch the discussion from political prisoners, torture and repression under his rule to something external, she says: “he wants to refocus the situation and force the West to see the crisis at the border and ignore the human rights situation in Belarus.” The aim of this is to try to begin discussions and lift the sanctions. Lukashenko understands the leverage he can acquire through force, and believes that through this he can forcefully restore bilateral dialogue. (Inews)

What can Poland and the EU do?

The EU has planned additional sanctions against Belarus as a response to the crisis. Considering the fact that the entire causal factor of this manufactured crisis are the sanctions, the EU should be wary of what it does next.

Outgoing German Chancellor Angela Merkel managed to have a discussion with Lukashenko on Monday, the 15th of November. This rare phone call between the two leaders allowed Lukashenko to secure dialogue with the EU. Germany would most likely receive the highest influx of new immigrants if the Polish border opened up, therefore, it was prudent for Merkel to negotiate. Their talks seem to have been successful since new reports have emerged, stating that Belarus is putting migrants on buses to be transported out of the area. Additionally, in an effort to further de-escalate the situation, Merkel spoke with President Vladimir Putin of Russia, asking him to use his leverage on Lukashenko. So, Lukashenko has succeeded in re-opening dialogue, but it’s unclear where that might lead, given continued international distaste for his authoritarian tactics. (New York Times)

However, now there is the question of where the migrants will go. According to international law, the European Union and Poland are obligated to hear the case of asylum seekers. As Jan Egeland of the Norwegian Refugee Council says, “both sides of this abject power play should take responsibility for these migrants, who are vulnerable people. Belarus and Russia have to stop using them as pawns on some kind of a chessboard.” (Inews)

Sources

  1. https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-59289998
  2. https://inews.co.uk/news/world/belarus-what-happening-poland-border-crisis-why-migrants-enter-eu-explained-1307498
  3. https://www.nytimes.com/2021/11/17/briefing/poland-belarus-border-crisis.html
Categories
Analysis News

AUKUS: Why is it such a big deal?

Introduction

Before answering the question of why the AUKUS agreement is such a global issue, we must first understand its background and contents. Over the past couple of decades, ever since the end of the Cold War between the USSR and the USA, a new nation has been rapidly expanding its influence on the world. That nation is China. In response to China’s growing power, many alliances, notably the World War II-era “Five Eyes” alliance (consisting of the USA, UK, Australia, New Zealand & Canada), now seem to be overwhelmingly focused on Beijing. Announced on the 15th of September, 2021, the AUKUS agreement has become the newest addition to the long list of actions taken by the West to counter China.   

Motivations for AUKUS

AUKUS has been described by analysts as one of, if not the most significant security arrangement between the US, UK and Australia since World War II. According to the states involved in the agreement (USA, UK & Australia), the focus of AUKUS is to maintain “a free and open Indo-Pacific,” with the help of nuclear-powered submarines on patrol. The new security partnership will supply Australia with nuclear-powered submarine technology which will be provided by the USA and UK. While it may take over a decade for the Australian Navy to deploy the first submarine, the agreement represents the USA’s mission to form a stronger threat in Asia and the Indo-Pacific to offset China’s rapidly modernizing military. Even though Australia has tried to remain balanced concerning her ties with the USA and China, the recent barrage of disciplinary trade reprisals from Beijing has drastically shifted Australia’s stance on the matter.

China’s Reaction

What does China think of this agreement? Unsurprisingly, Beijing has consistently lashed out at what it calls a “Cold War mentality,” denouncing anti-China partnerships. Chinese officials have stated that the AUKUS agreement will cause an arms race in the Indo-Pacific. From the Chinese perspective, the agreement was not created for competitive purposes, but instead is a deliberate attempt to impede China’s development. Relations have become increasingly tense, even before AUKUS. President Joe Biden’s administration has continued to put effort into preventing China’s economy from pulling ahead. Furthermore, Beijing has sparred with the UK over Hong Kong and Canada over detained citizens while Europe has called China a “systemic rival”.

Reaction of other countries

China is not, however, the only nation that has been upset by AUKUS. France, and many other NATO member states, such as Germany, have denounced the agreement. France suffered the most, losing a $37 billion deal between France and Australia concerning diesel-powered submarines. Adding insult to injury, France – a very old ally of the West – found out about the new pact just a few hours before it was announced to the public. The Asia-Pacific is a key strategic and economic region for France as 1.65 million French citizens reside on islands including La Reunion, New Caledonia, and French Polynesia. The cancellation of a deal that would reinforce such a region is a great loss for France. The French Foreign Minister, Jean-Yves Le Drian described AUKUS as a “stab in the back”. As a response, France has recalled her ambassadors to Washington and Canberra for the time being.

Conclusion

All is not lost, however. In a joint statement, President Joe Biden of the USA and President Emmanuel Macron of France have agreed to work on creating “conditions for ensuring confidence and proposing concrete measures toward common objectives”. The two leaders have said they will meet in Europe towards the latter half of October to further mend the damaged diplomatic relations.

Sources

  1. BBC. “Aukus Pact: France and US Seek to Mend Rift.” BBC News, 23 Sept. 2021, http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-58659627.
  2. —. “UK, US and Australia Launch Pact to Counter China.” BBC News, 15 Sept. 2021, http://www.bbc.com/news/world-58564837.
  3. Chazan, Guy. “Aukus Security Pact Is ‘Insult to a Nato Partner’, Says Merkel’s Adviser.” Financial Times, 24 Sept. 2021, http://www.ft.com/content/dfc4f860-c178-4c2a-a46c-c5f4e5595b1a. Accessed 26 Sept. 2021.
  4. Prof. Nursin Atesoglu Guney. “ANALYSIS – Third Front of New Cold War Expanding in Asia-Pacific.” Www.aa.com.tr, 24 Sept. 2021, http://www.aa.com.tr/en/analysis/analysis-third-front-of-new-cold-war-expanding-in-asia-pacific/2373757. Accessed 26 Sept. 2021.