“The Belarusian government is not afraid to play the escalation card”, declared Sunday, November 14 on franceinfo Florent Parmentier, secretary general of Cevipof-Science Po and specialist in Russia. The European Union plans to expand sanctions against Minsk while a Council of European Union foreign ministers is due to be held on Monday.
>> Why Belarus is accused of carrying out a “migratory attack” against Europe from the Polish border
Belarusian Foreign Minister held talks with EU foreign minister on Sunday, he believes EU sanctions are “hopeless and counterproductive”. More than 2,000 migrants are still stranded in camps on the border with Poland. For him, this escalation could also “take place against the migrants themselves”, while the death toll is already ten.
franceinfo: Is the Belarusian Foreign Minister right when he talks about “counterproductive” sanctions?
Florent Parmentier: It is in its role by effectively trying in anticipation to reduce the virtues that sanctions could have for Europeans. But, at the same time, it is important to understand that sanctions have effects, and this can indeed be seen in certain behaviors that Belarus may have. Very likely, if there had not been sanctions from 2020 against Belarus, Alexander Lukashenko would not have had the idea of creating his own migratory network from the Middle East to Minsk. Since he has been in power, he has played a blow with the Europeans, a blow with the Russians to maximize his power, and there the sanctions are pushing him towards Russia.
What means does Europe really have?
There are things that are already on the way. For example, preventing planes from the Middle East from going to Minsk is already being done because the Europeans can restrict air access to companies that collaborated with the Lukashenko regime. Then, Europe can attack the thirty or so officials in question, but also the migrant smugglers themselves, and an investigation is underway.
What would be a further rise in this crisis would be for Poland itself to decide to close its border for good with Belarus and not just to migrants. This would have repercussions not only for Belarusian leaders but also for the population. That is why the European Union does not want to do it as a first step, it wants to protect the population.
Are there any risks of reprisals?
It is understood that Minsk will try to play a sort of go-all. Belarus is a regime concentrated around its president, whose president must ensure the loyalty of all those who will serve him. In this headlong rush, we have already seen a few months ago the action of the Belarusian authorities when they had carried out air piracy by hijacking the flight of an opponent between Athens and Vilnius, with a stopover in Minsk. From this point of view, the Belarusian government is not afraid to play the escalation card.
This escalation may ultimately take place with the migrants themselves. At the moment, there are about ten dead, but there are several thousand people. I think that the power of Lukashenko will try to have the support of Russia, which will be able to engage to a certain point, which could divide the Europeans on the course to follow vis-à-vis Belarus , and this is what Alexander Lukashenko is looking for.