By Stanisław Żaryn, for StopFake
Since 2021 Poland, Lithuania and Latvia are facing crisis on its border with Belarus. Fully artificial migratory route is orchestrated by both regimes: Russian and Belarusian. Good attribution and identification of the real character of this hybrid operation was a key factor to defend the CEE.
The construction of the barrier at the Poland’s border with Belarus, built in a response to the illegal migratory route organised by the Lukashenko’s regime, was finished in 2022. Currently it is being equipped with the perimeter system of cameras and motion sensors, which makes it one of the best protected borders in Europe. We can already confirm that the barrier efficiently serves its purpose. The border fence made of steel that is 5,5 metres high and 186 kilometres long, has already significantly decreased the number illegal border crossing attempts – by 60 %, according to the latest statistics by the Polish Border Guard.
This significant decrease doesn’t mean though that attacks against the Polish border stopped and the migration pressure is over. The illegal migratory route is still maintained by the Belarusian regime as a part of hybrid warfare waged by the Kremlin against Poland – one of the closest Ukraine’s ally, but also against NATO. The route may be adapted by Russia and Belarus to changing circumstances – for example now the whole migratory flow is directed through Russia and it is from the Russian territory that illegal migrants reach the Belarusian soil and then try to illegally cross the EU border in Poland or other Baltic states.
We cannot forget that the heavy pressure of illegal migration that Poland has to face on the border with Belarus was deliberately created by the regime of Lukashenko in 2021. Belarusian special services, with the approval and support of Moscow, created an artificial migratory route and used migrants as a weapon in order to destabilise the situation on the NATO eastern flank. It was in summer and autumn 2021 when thousands of illegal migrants aggressively forced the Polish border, brutally attacked Polish border guards and tried to illegally enter the EU territory. Now we clearly see that it was aimed at Poland and the whole Central and Eastern Europe. Russian hostile plans stood behind this operation. It was an introduction to further aggressive Russia’s actions and its invasion in Ukraine in February 2022.
This hybrid operation is constantly used not only to destabilise the situation at the Polish border, but also to undertake information warfare efforts. On every day basis the Polish border guards have to face difficult and dangerous situations. They prevent illegal border crossings that are often supported by smugglers, they react to attempts to destroy the border fence or they provide all necessary help to all migrants who – deceitfully and cynically brought to the border by the Belarusian regime – now need medical or humanitarian aid. Contrary to false claims spread by the Russian propaganda, Polish border guards are not indifferent towards people who need their assistance or want to seek asylum in Poland. But we must remember that border guards are responsible for protecting the state border and migrants want to cross the border illegally, violating the Polish and European law. What’s more, in most of the cases they are not interested in legal asylum procedures and deliberately choose to try to cross the Polish border illegally hoping for reaching other European countries. In such a situation, Polish border guards must safeguard the law and act in the interest of the Polish state.
We should expect that the migratory pressure will continue as Poland remains one of the main targets of Russian information efforts. That’s why the Polish government has also decided to install the barrier on our border with Russia, along the Kaliningrad Oblast. The decision is related also to some disturbing reports that the airport in the Kaliningrad Oblast is open for flights from the Middle East and Africa.
Moreover, migration crisis will be constantly stirred up by the Kremlin, because it is willingly used by the Russian and Belarusian propaganda in their information operations against Poland, in order to slander Polish authorities and Polish services, spread false claims about actions of the Polish border guards and portray Poland as a country that don’t respect human rights.
Poland remains safe mainly due to the fact that we managed to correctly identify threats and undertake proper remedies while facing the aggressive hybrid operation conducted behind the facade of a migration crisis. The actual combat against hybrid threats starts from a professional identification of the nature of such dangers.
By Stanisław Żaryn, for StopFake
Stanisław Żaryn is Government Plenipotentiary for the Security of Information Space of the Republic of Poland.