Fantasies of Minsk and Moscow How Poland “Occupies” Ukraine

Aliaksandr Lukashenko, on the occasion of the Belarusian Independence Day on 2 July, traditionally gave a fresh rhetorical production by “predicting” a new battle for the division of the planet, this time in Central Asia.

The dictator warned severely of turmoil in Uzbekistan, because at that very moment thousands were protesting in the streets of Nukus, the capital of the autonomous republic of Karakalpakstan, which is part of that country, against the amendments to the Constitution proposed on 26 June by President Shavkat Mirziyoyev, which remove the word “sovereign” from the basic document of the Uzbek state, defining Karakalpakstan’s autonomy, and the possibility for the autonomous republic to withdraw from Uzbekistan if it wins a referendum on this issue.

Karakalpakstan (or Karakalpakia) is the largest region of Uzbekistan (covering 40% of the country), however with just over 5% of the population.

In 1990, the Council of the Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic of Karakalpakstan issued a declaration of state sovereignty, but in 1993 a treaty was signed to incorporate the republic into Uzbekistan. The current initiative by President Shavkat Mirziyoyev has angered the Karakalpaks.

Recalling the mass protests in Kazakhstan at the turn of the year and that the foreigners who were causing havoc in that country would not be left alone, Aliaksandr Lukashenko said that Uzbekistan was already being “swayed” by the same foreigners, and accused the West of bombing everyone/whoever just raises the head.

All this confusion is supposedly due to the emerging new “multi-polar” relations in the world.

In the past, Aliaksandr Lukashenko has proclaimed the need for the former Soviet republics to adjoin Russia and Belarus, otherwise risking their sovereignty.

Also on 2 July, the dictator stated that Belarus was not going to fight in Ukraine, although it was being provoked to go to war as before, in order to deal with both his country and Russia in one fell swoop (you know who’s going to do what – A.S.): “They in Ukraine are supposedly getting over their reluctance to have Belarusian forces invade their country from the north. Well, don’t listen to them! They would be delighted (I know exactly) if we went in. I will repeat what I said a year ago and before: we are not invading Ukraine, we don’t need this war at all.”

So, no is no. But there is nothing stopping geopolitical fantasies from running free.

Also on the occasion of the independence of Belarus, Aliaksandr Lukashenko, without providing evidence, accused the Ukrainian armed forces of missile attacks on military installations in Belarus: “Three days ago, maybe a little before that, the Ukrainian armed forces attempted to strike from the territory of Ukraine… Thank God, the Pantsir air defence complexes managed to intercept everything.”

In this context, the dictator said he had ordered his troops to “target” decision-making centres in the capitals of countries opposed to Minsk. If they dared to strike Gomel, the Mozyr oil refinery, Brest, the Lunnitsa airport, they would cross back without a second thought, in a flash, without looking at who was sitting in the enemy’s offices or palaces: “We have something to answer for. Not only what we recently discussed with the President of Russia (to tell the truth, he also talked about nuclear weapons – A.S.). I have been preparing for this for a long time; our adversaries are absolutely falling under our missile strikes.”

In mid-June, Aliaksandr Lukashenko declared that Poland was seeking to take over western Ukraine and thus encircle Belarus, which cannot be allowed.

It is ridiculous to think that these narratives are purely the personal initiatives of the Belarusian dictator. “There is no shortage of ‘good practice’ to learn from, particularly in the East.

Oleg Tyapkin, head of the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs Department for Relations with Europe, said on 12 June that the response of Moscow to the NATO build-up in Poland would be, “as always”, appropriately adequate and is meant to neutralise potential threats to the security of the Russian Federation.

On 10 June, his boss, Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergey Lavrov, commenting on President of Poland Andrzej Duda’s comparison of Vladimir Putin to Adolf Hitler, recommended that the Poles should concentrate on their own history, because in the meantime, under the guise of talking about the impossibility of a dialogue with Moscow, their “Polish counterparts” are engaged in the active absorption of Ukrainian territory.

This is confirmed by some decisions of the President Volodymyr Zelensky and the Verkhovna Rada, which give Poles special rights in Ukraine, such as the possibility to take up leading positions in the civil service. In addition, Warsaw is setting up a parallel monitoring system for the Ukrainian tax service.

Sergey Lavrov summarised that sovereignty of Ukraine is of no concern to its president, let alone to America and its allies. They are all ready to sacrifice the interests of the Ukrainian people for their own geopolitical goals. This will ultimately lead to the real collapse of the state.

Nikolai Patrushev, Secretary of the Russian Security Council, told during the national security meeting in Volga on 31 May that the so-called Western partners of the Kiev regime do not mind of taking advantage of current affairs to pursue their selfish interests of grabbing Ukrainian lands.

As an example, he pointed to Poland’s already real plans (although he formulated it as “judging by everything”) to take over the western lands of Ukraine, thus presumably “encouraging” the dictator of Minsk to do the same a couple of weeks later.

According to Nikolai Patrushev, this was confirmed by Andrzej Duda’s visit to Kiev in May, when the President of Poland said that the Polish-Ukrainian border would cease to exist in the foreseeable future, as it was not meant to divide, but to unite nations.

The Secretary of the Security Council reiterated Sergey Lavrov’s quote that a whole series of democratic states are actively engaged in the work of dividing Ukraine.

While the shrill ones in the East are hypocritically ‘tearing their hair out’ over sovereignty of Ukraine, the routine of Moscow’s predatory warfare on the Belarusian side is also as it is.

On 27 June, the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine indicated that Belarus was still providing support to Russia, for example by sending another consignment of 20 wagon loads of ammunition to Belgorod Oblast. The Russians have shelled military and civilian infrastructure in the Chernihiv and Sumy regions of Ukraine from the territory of Belarus.

On 22 June, the Ukrainian Ministry of Defence informed that the Belarusian military was deploying wooden mules of tanks in the Belarusian-Ukrainian border areas for operational camouflage, but also to demonstrate the Belarusian military presence in those areas to the Ukrainians.

The fact that Poland is “not accidental” in the context of the Ukrainian war is also indicated by a post on Twitter on 20 June by Stanislaw Żaryn, the spokesman for the Coordinator of the Polish Security Services, who said that his country has been in  crosshairs of Russia for some time.

The Kremlin is using various campaigns and actions (such as disinformation) to both attack the fundamental right of Poles to statehood and security and to convince the West that Warsaw should not be taken seriously and should remain a ‘grey area’ between NATO and Russia.

Of course, one cannot forgive the President of Poland for his statement on 23 June that it is now certain that Ukraine will be the most valuable link in the development of both Central and Eastern Europe and the European Union (EU) over the next decade, as Ukrainians are “signing” with their own blood their integration into the free world.

Prime Minister of Poland Mateusz Morawiecki said on 15 June: “The Ukrainian military and society are fighting for the values and sovereignty of Europe and the entire free world, for the right to live. I think we have not done enough to support and defend it.”

In an interview with CNN on 30 May, Andrzej Duda said that Poland was ready to become a guarantor of Ukraine’s security, as he was convinced that it was necessary to help Kiev resist Russia. It is not possible to remain neutral in Eastern Europe in the current circumstances.

The need for support was pointed out by the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine Dmytro Kuleba, in an interview with German television ARD on 20 June, when he said that if his country did not receive the arms promised by the West, it would be defending itself with shovels, but it would defend itself. Because this is a war for survival.

Before that, on 14 June, Deputy Defence Minister of Ukraine Anna Maliar stated on a state TV marathon that the West had at that time delivered 10% of the promised arms. According to the Minister, no matter how ingeniously and professionally the Ukrainians defend themselves, without the support of the democratic world they would not win the war.

Actually I should point out that at the beginning of July the supply of arms to Ukraine began to intensify.

A little bit more about the aid, which, in its own way, argues for this particular vector of geopolitical fantasies of Moscow and Minsk, and not another vector.

In a Facebook post on 7 June, Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki announced the signing of one of the largest military contracts between Ukraine and Poland in the last 30 years, worth around $630 million, part of which will be reimbursed by the EU. According to the Prime Minister of Poland, it is a proven weapon and he knows it will be effective in the field.

According to the Belarusian political analyst Valery Karbalevich, although propaganda preparations for war are being made in Belarus (rumours are circulating about sabotage groups infiltrating the country from Ukraine, 17 Ukrainian drones have flown into Belarus in a month, etc.), for it to actually start it requires a political decision, which can only be taken by one person and we know who.

That man is still “keeping his mouth shut”. We can only guess what factors he has to navigate between and what determines his posture – probably pressure from Moscow, but also fear of additional tightening of the already tough sanctions. And so on.

According to the political analyst, however, the most fatal factor that Aliaksandr Lukashenko (and Moscow, because it knows) cannot ignore is the categorically negative attitude of the Belarusian public towards the war. Deeply divided, Belarusians unanimously regard the conflict in Ukraine as ‘not their war’ – in this sense, supporters and opponents of the dictator think alike.

In Bobruisk in mid-June, Aliaksandr Lukashenko made an unexpectedly interesting remark: “Nobody knows how this war will end, no predictions can be made.” Until then, he had been repeating over and over again that Russia, with its enormous superiority, was bound to win, and criticising Volodymyr Zelensky for not giving in to avoid new casualties.

The Belarusian dictator seems to have hesitated, to have “paused”. According to Valery Karbalevich, this is a remarkable circumstance, because it is one thing to join the victor and to reap trophies of one kind or another from the victory, and quite another to find oneself in the role of a country that has not won.

It seems to be a dilemma for the Belarusian dictator.

Of course, Vladimir Putin is putting pressure on Aliaksandr Lukashenko, otherwise it is difficult to explain the five meetings of five hours each this year alone – it was certainly not just about changing the import of sanctioned goods, as the Belarusian dictator explains.

The Belarusian political analyst concludes with the thesis that if the Russians were still attacking Kiev, the participation of the Belarusian armed forces in the operation would be more likely. With the fighting localised mainly in Donbas, it is difficult to imagine Belarusian troops being involved in an operation there.

So who does what. Although the posture and rhetoric of both dictators is still belligerent and brazenly insulting, first of all towards Poland, one can see differences in motives and expectations.

It is even likely that the rift between them will get deeper in the long run, because the political animal Aliaksandr Lukashenko will have to save his own hide in a very concrete way.

Arūnas Spraunius



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