Belarus is emerging as a potential flash point for conflict after its leader said he wants Russian missiles capable of delivering nuclear warheads.
The nation, once a part of the Soviet Union and now a close Russian ally, has been accused of serving as a gateway for illegal immigrants to enter Europe, with thousands of illegal immigrants entering the country and making their way to the Polish border with the apparent support of the government, according to The New York Times.
In response, Poland has beefed up its military presence at the Belarusian border as it keeps the illegal immigrants at bay. On Thursday, Belarus accused Poland of an “unprecedented” military buildup, saying 15,000 troops along with tanks and other weapons were at the border, according to the New York Post.
Migrants rough sleep, hide in warm shopping malls, buy boots and sleeping bags in the cheapest markets in Minsk and simply hang outside. There are women and children among them. Lukashenko is really trying to make #Belarus the hub of irregular migration. This is very sad pic.twitter.com/PRHljXEe02
— Hanna Liubakova (@HannaLiubakova) November 6, 2021
That was followed on Friday by a contingent of Russian paratroopers being sent to the area where tensions are the thickest, a move the Russians claim is “part of joint war games involving Belarusian air defense assets, helicopter gunships and other forces,” according to the Post.
On Saturday, Belarus’ President Alexander Lukashenko said in an interview with a Russian defense magazine that he wants Russian missiles capable of delivering nuclear weapons.
Lukashenko has his eye on the Iskander mobile ballistic missile system, which has a range of up to 500 kilometers, according to Reuters.
“I need several divisions in the west and the south, let them stand (there),” he said.
It was unclear if Russian leader Vladimir Putin would grant the request.
Should the U.S. get involved in this dispute?
Poland and Lithuania lie to the west of Belarus. Its south borders Ukraine.
Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki, meanwhile, is saying that he may seek help from NATO, according to Reuters.
“It is not enough just for us to publicly express our concern — now we need concrete steps and the commitment of the entire alliance,” he said.
He indicated Poland, Lithuania and Latvia may seek consultations with the entire NATO alliance.
A NATO ally can request consultations when the ally believes its territory or independence is at risk.
Poland Warns of Possible Border Breakthrough as EU Prepares to Sanction Belarus https://t.co/b6rF3Ytqml
— Novaturient (@novaturient50) November 15, 2021
On Friday, a group of migrants crossed into Poland, according to the Daily Mail.
A Polish Border Force spokesman said, “Belarusian soldiers began to destroy the temporary border by tearing up fence posts. Polish forces were blinded by laser beams and strobe light.”
“Also, a group of about 100 migrants were [able] to cross, and Poland says Belarusians gave them tear gas, which was used against the Polish forces,” he continued.
British Gen. Nick Carter, chief of the defense staff, said there are fears a collision could turn into a major conflict.
“I think we have to be careful that people don’t end up allowing the bellicose nature of some of our politics to end up in a position where escalation leads to miscalculation,” he said in an interview which aired on Sunday.