From Reuters via Polish Radio.
The European Union accused Belarus on Wednesday of mounting a “hybrid attack” by pushing migrants across the border into Poland, paving the way for widened sanctions against Minsk in a crisis that threatens to draw in Russia and NATO.
Russia took the rare step of dispatching two nuclear-capable strategic bombers to patrol Belarusian airspace in a show of support for its close ally.
Poland briefed fellow NATO allies at a closed-door meeting and they pledged their support, an alliance official said.
Compared with 2015, the current crisis has an added geopolitical dimension as it is unfolding on the dividing line between NATO to the west and Russia-allied Belarus to the east.
The Tupolev Tu-22M3 bombers that Russia sent to overfly Belarus are capable of carrying nuclear missiles, including hypersonic ones of the kind designed to evade sophisticated Western air defences.
Latvia has cautioned that NATO could be called in to help protect the EU’s eastern border amid a rapidly escalating migrant crisis, with Brussels having accused Belarus of flying in refugees as part of a “hybrid war” campaign.
Speaking to local radio on Thursday, Defense Minister Artis Pabriks said that if Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko chooses to worsen the situation, then “I cannot rule out that even NATO could become involved, because we must defend our borders and will not open them.”
Nato’s members are in full solidarity with Poland and other alliance countries affected by the migrant crisis caused by Belarus, officials from Nato headquarters [said] on Wednesday.
Poland had earlier in the day briefed the North Atlantic Council on the situation on its border with Belarus, Nato officials said.
Moscow and Minsk have expressed concern over NATO’s buildup near the borders of the Union State, while the alliance prefers not to pay attention to these concerns, Belarussian Foreign Minister Vladimir Makei told a news conference following a joint board meeting of the Russian and Belarusian foreign ministries.
“We paid tremendous attention to arms control and disarmament. This issue is very crucial for both foreign ministries, in particular, in the light of the worsening of previous challenges and the emergence of new ones in the field of global and regional security and the growth of destructive trends towards breaking the existing arms control and disarmament agreements. Time is ripe to recall the term detente, largely forgotten since the Soviet era,” Makei said. “In this connection we are expressing concern over the continuing groundless NATO buildup on the borders of the Union State. Regrettably, our Western partners prefer to turn a deaf ear to us.”
Moving NATO closer to borders of the Union State of Belarus and Russia represents the alliance’s long-term strategy. Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergey Lavrov made the statement after an annual meeting of the Russian-Belarusian ministerial collegium in Moscow on 10 November, BelTA has learned.
The official said: “We have serious reasons to believe that the ongoing policy in favor of so-called deterrence of our countries and NATO’s practical actions to bring military infrastructure closer to borders of the Union State reflect the long-term strategy of this military and political bloc. And certainly we are absolutely united in the opinion, which our presidents have expressed repeatedly, regarding how we will respond to such absolutely unfriendly actions that violate all the previous agreements.”