Lithuania must prepare for the most unexpected decisions and diversionary terrorist attacks from Lukashenko

Alexander Lukashenko
AFP/Scanpix

The current influx of migrants, purposefully directed from Belarus into Lithuania, is dangerous, not due to poor experience in handling based on international regulations a widespread around the world matter but because of a potentially planned “coincidence” of a suicidal terrorist infiltrating some fragment of the inflow, Mečys Laurinkus writes in lrytas.lt portal.

A terrorist attack would greatly impact Lithuanian society. During wartime, it matters not if it is described as hybrid, such an operation from the attacking side cannot be ruled out. Neither can the kidnappings of opposition figures who are opposing A. Lukashenko’s junta. War is war, Batka [A. Lukashenko’s nickname] will say. Honestly, he is already fighting not just for political but also for physical survival.

Thus, it comes as something of a surprise that Lithuanian news media often only occasionally covers the dictator’s declarations. Even without turning to psychoanalysis, it is easy to perceive his real fears in the text. Lithuania, which has offered shelter to S. Tsikhanouskaya, must be prepared for the most unexpected decisions by A. Lukashenko. And not just his decisions.

Lithuania will have to face diversionary terrorist attacks, which have thus far been employed and continue to be employed against Western states but never reached Lithuania.

The typical narrative was that we are not interesting to them, we are far away, on the sidelines. However, terrorism is now breathing down our neck. It is a major challenge for the State Security Department and other services.

Constant readiness is needed to combat terrorism. After the terrorist attack against the USA on September 11, 2001, in support of its strategic partner, Lithuania too created an inter-institutional group to coordinate combatting terrorism.

It was unfortunately abolished later on, with claims repeated for numerous years that the likelihood of terrorist attacks in our country is vanishingly small.

I do not know what the real situation is on this front in Lithuania right now, but I worry that we are proceeding as per usual – when it goes boom, that’s when we will react. The refugees happened and we now look confused.

The answer as to why the border with Belarus was not reinforced before is presented evasively. The budget for the year 2017 earmarked 3.6 million euros for a 135 km two-metre-tall wall with Russia to combat contraband. Questions about Belarus were answered vaguely.

It’s not hard to tell why. At the time, A. Lukashenko launched a pretend verbal spar with Russia, proclaimed multi-vectorial foreign policy and the EU began lifting sanctions despite the world seeing exactly what was being done to the opposition.

The West’s hopes of luring the dictator to its side, perhaps exploiting him against Russia, were the real reason as to why the border with Belarus is porous.

There is now understanding, but the suspicion lingers that it’s only feigned.

After the European Council president’s visit to Lithuania, the prime minister’s enthusiasm for constructing a grandiose border wall cooled off. I think that the guest did not view the migrant influx as a threat to the EU.

There’s another reason for the meagreness of promises to aid Lithuania. In 2017, Hungary built a wall along its border with Serbia due to a menacing influx of refugees. Brussels condemned this. Hungary did not receive compensation for the expenses incurred when building this wall.

By the way, while visiting Latvia, there was no noise to be heard in terms of refugees.

Neither is Poland ringing any warning bells despite how it should be an even more important object than Lithuania in terms of A. Lukashenko’s revenge.

Perhaps A. Lukashenko does think this way, but Poland had a classical wall with the USSR – it didn’t demolish it and instead further reinforced and modernised it. Refugees cannot go mushroom picking in the forests there.

A. Lukashenko has focused his attention on Lithuania alone and the Belarusian KGB is working hand in hand alongside equivalent Russian services.

The refugee influx has all the traits of a planned operation in this case. G. Landsbergis’ plans to visiting the refugees’ countries of origin are logical, but I doubt they will be fruitful. I am inclined to agree with a member of Seimas A. Ažubalis that only with the aid of the USA can we achieve even partial success.

How long might the operation last? Until it irks, unnerves or perhaps even intimidates Lithuanian society, making it grumble against the government. The essential closure of the Lithuanian embassy in Minsk also harms the Lithuanian citizens’ interests. And if the economic sanctions against the regime prove futile, many Lithuanians, particularly in Klaipėda, will frown.

What should be done then? Withdrawal from the stance held against A. Lukashenko and his army would be not only foolish but also a shameful defeat.

Will we be able to restrain the influx by calling upon the military and Riflemen’s Union? In part – yes, but this should not be continued when the Russian-Belarusian military exercise Zapad is launched. Will sending a message to the countries of origin that Lithuania is not a good place to be proved helpful?

It won’t. Bad conditions in a refugee camp are vastly better for them than living in their own country. Lithuania will have to come to terms with the camps, their problems and the commitment to comply with international rules.

Minister of Culture S. Kairys correctly identified that refugees aren’t items being thrown across the border. President G. Nausėda says that the migrant crisis has revealed the flaws in border control. I think that it is less so border control and more the flaws in preparation for potential events among prior governments. The lack of insight has cost us gaps in the border with Belarus.

The only way to halt the migrant flows is through intensive political processes within Belarus itself. Unfortunately, I am increasingly sceptical in regard to this. I remain very unsure whether the sanctions packages will “kill off” the dictator. Not just because the sanctions blows will be cushioned by Russia’s pillow. I also doubt that A. Lukashenko is relying on solely power structures. The countrywide opposition to Batka doesn’t seem quite so countrywide to me.

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