As tensions grow on Lithuania’s and Poland’s border with Belarus, is an armed conflict becoming more likely?
Hundreds of migrants tried to forcibly enter Poland from Belarus, leading to clashes with the Polish security forces. But according to Lieutenant General Valdas Tutkus, the former commander of the Lithuanian Armed Forces, it is too early to talk about the military confrontation between Belarus and Poland or Lithuania.
“As far as military action is concerned, I don’t think it is possible, but there will definitely be more tensions,” Tutkus told. The forcoing of migrants across the border and using them as human shields does not constitute a war in the conventional sense, he added.
“Armed conflict is not good for anyone. We are protected by NATO Article 5 [of collective defence]. If Belarus dared to attack our state, it would be an attack against the entire NATO. I have no doubt that there would be a proportionate response,” Tutkus said.
Laurynas Jonavičius, a politics professor at Vilnius University, also said that military conflict was unlikely but stressed the unpredictability of Belarus’ authoritarian leader, Alexander Lukashenko.
“Lukashenko aims to create problems and internal tensions in Western countries. But nobody knows whether he would want to go into conflict,” Jonavičius said.
“If [Lukashenko] was desperate enough, he could take seemingly irrational actions, and open conflict could be part of this. Whether a conflict would break out also depends on how the West – Poles, Lithuanians, and others – react to the regime’s provocations,” he added.
Unable to go to Western Europe, migrants might also become more frustrated and aggressive, which could turn against the Belarusian regime, the political analyst said.
According to Dovilė Jakniūnaitė, a professor at Vilnius University, Lukashenko has no long-term plan when it comes to organising migration to Europe but his short-term goal is to “destabilise” the EU.
Although there is a risk of armed incidents, Belarus risk averse, according to Jakniūnaitė.
“The situation is tense, but it isn’t so dramatic that we could speak about war or military action,” she added.
Meanwhile, Lukashenko also aims to divert international attention away from issues in Belarus, according to Jonavičius.
“By creating problems inside Poland, Lithuania, and the EU, Belarusians force Europeans to devote more resources to their internal problems,” the professor said. “As there are tensions between human rights and national security, resources are diluted, leading to less focus on problems inside Belarus.”