As the border between Belarus and Poland becomes a flashpoint over illegal immigration, Russia has sent troops to the region, sparking concerns that Ukraine could be the ultimate target of the troops.
Belarus has been accused of serving as a gateway for illegal immigrants to enter Europe, with thousands of them entering the country and making their way to the Polish border with the apparent support of the government of Belarus, according to The New York Times.
Poland has beefed up its military presence as it keeps the illegal immigrants at bay.
Crazy situation on Belarus- #Poland border: Lukashenko Gov. escorted ~ 1000 Middle Eastern refugees today to Polish border to make forced entry into EU.
They’re now trapped, in frigid temp., with children & military standoff continues: pic.twitter.com/jRB2ASwepC
— Joyce Karam (@Joyce_Karam) November 8, 2021
On Thursday, Belarus accused Poland of an “unprecedented” military buildup, saying that migration control did not warrant 15,000 troops supported by tanks, air defense equipment and other weapons, according to the New York Post.
That was followed on Friday by Russian paratroopers being sent to the area where tensions are the thickest, after patrols by two of Russia’s bombers that are capable of carrying nuclear weapons.
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said NATO “strongly condemns the continued instrumentalisation of irregular migration artificially created by Belarus as part of hybrid actions targeted against Poland, Lithuania, and Latvia for political purposes,” according to the Post.
“These callous actions endanger the lives of vulnerable people,” added Stoltenberg, who vowed that NATO would “remain vigilant against the risk of further escalation and provocation by Belarus at its borders with Poland, Lithuania, and Latvia, and will continue to monitor the implications for the security of the Alliance.”
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“NATO Allies call on Belarus to cease these actions, to respect human rights and fundamental freedoms, and to abide by international law,” he said.
Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, a strong ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, is feuding with the European Union because it placed sanctions against Belarus after Lukashenko cracked down on dissidents.
Ukraine, Poland, Lithuania have all stood up to Russia in the past. How Putin is using Belarus is obvious…he is “pushing the bayonet until he meets steel.” https://t.co/VzLqAUfdwU
— Mark Hertling (@MarkHertling) November 13, 2021
Amid the tensions, American officials fear that Russia could be setting the stage to invade Ukraine, according to multiple reports.
Ukraine borders Russia, Belarus and Poland.
A Bloomberg report quoted a White House official it did not name as saying that conditions appeared to be similar to the 2014 invasion of Crimea by Russia.
Russia says it has no aggressive intentions.
“We have repeatedly said that the movement of our armed forces on our territory should not be a cause for concern,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said, according to the New York Post. “Russia does not pose a threat to anyone.”
The migrant stand off on the #Belarus #Poland border – combined with continuing conflict in eastern #Ukraine and the movements of Russian troops on the Ukrainian border all add up to “the most dangerous moment in the region since Russia’s invasion of Crimea” — @nolanwpeterson pic.twitter.com/qoT0jW6Hxf
— Michael Holmes (@holmescnn) November 12, 2021
Russia said the paratroopers are in the region as part of training exercises. The Post identified those as “practice targeting enemy scouts and illegal armed formations, among other tasks.”
Relations between Russia and Ukraine have been hostile since 2014.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said the Biden administration was “discussing our concerns about the Russian military activities and their harsh rhetoric toward Ukraine.”
“As we’ve made clear in the past … escalatory or aggressive actions by Russia would be a great concern to the United States,” she said, adding that the Biden administration will support Ukraine and oppose Russian aggression.