The EU Barbed-Wire External Perimeter

In May 2021, an increasing number of people started to sporadically cross the European borders from Belarus. These migratory flows, artificially created by state-sponsored actions from President Alexander Lukashenko, mainly affected three European bordering countries: Latvia, Lithuania, and Poland. This specific case exemplifies the heavily debated instrumentalisation of migration, or, as specified by the European Commission, the series of events in which “a third country instigates irregular migratory flows into the Union by actively encouraging or facilitating the movement of third-country nationals to the external borders”. It can be easily understood that these actions are perpetrated with the objective of destabilising and asserting pressure on the Member States and the European Union (EU) at large, with the final intention of undermining vital State functions, such as territorial integrity and national security in primis. In the short term, Latvia, Lithuania, and Poland have reacted to the growing number of undocumented individuals through stricter border controls, whilst in the long run, the instrumentalisation of migration has translated into a proper humanitarian crisis that has shaken the Union. Whilst the latter had already sanctioned key political and economic figures of the Belarusian regime after the fraudulent presidential victory of 2020, EU countries bordering Belarus have proceeded in different ways, at times even acting against the EU acquis and international law.

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Tensions Mount Along NATO’s Eastern Flank as Belarus Conducts Military Provocations Around The Suwałki Gap.

On 1 August, two Belarusian military helicopters violated Poland’s airspace by shortly flying over Białowieża, a village not far from the border between the two countries (Brzezinski, 2023). The Polish media outlet Onet deemed such incursion a provocation (Chiappa, 2023). The following week, the alert threshold was raised as Minsk held military exercises in the Grodno region, which were simulating real-combat situations, according to the Belarusian Defence Ministry (Teslova, 2023).

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The Su-25 and the Russia-Belarus Military Cooperation

This Info Flash outlines the necessity to take a closer look at Russian-Belarusian military cooperation. While increased military cooperation between Russia and Belarus can be expected in an ongoing war, this depends on many more factors, and it is rather difficult to estimate its exact form. For the European Union, however, this cooperation poses a significant risk, and even though the involvement of the Belarusian army in the war seems unlikely, many factors at play can change this. The previously reached factors and many more factors are further discussed in this work, with the main research questions focusing on how close is the Belarus-Russian military cooperation and why it poses a threat to the European Union.

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A Cohesive Response to the Belarus Border Crisis?

In August 2020, the Belarusian election was widely seen as fraudulent, rigged to ensure that the so-called “last dictator of Europe” remained in power, which led to widespread international condemnation. It also prompted the EU to adopt sanctions against the regime under Article 215 TFEU, aimed at securing the end of autocratic rule and the reorganisation of elections. This led to a heightened antagonism between the EU and Belarus, culminating in last month’s border crisis. Indeed, the Belarusian government relaxed its visa entry requirements in August (Loanes, vox, 2021) in an apparent attempt to incentivise migrants to privilege the Belarusian route into the EU and funnel in a large number of people in the hope of creating political difficulties within the Union, thus weakening it.

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