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Security Brief: EUCOM Week of November 29, 2021

Week of Monday, November 29, 2021 | Issue 53

Casey Mager, Federica Calissano, Pètra van de Gevel, Zarah Sheikh, EUCOM Team


Russian President Vladimir Putin and Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko[1]


Date: November 29, 2021

Location: Belarus

Parties involved: Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko; Defense Minister Viktor Khrenin; Belarusian armed forces; Russian military; North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO); EU

The event: Belarusian Defense Minister Khrenin said Belarus would hold a joint military exercise with Russia on Belarus’ southern border with Ukraine. Belarusian President Lukashenko will support Russia after they provided financial and political backing to help Lukashenko navigate protests against his rule last fall.[2]

Analysis and Implications:

  • If the Belarusian government continues integrating its armed forces with Russia’s, Ukraine will likely arm itself in response, very likely escalating tensions. If the Ukrainian government and military decides to confront Belarus and Russia, NATO will likely send troops to bolster the Ukrainian forces, likely leading to a confrontation between NATO, and Russia and Belarus. If NATO were to enhance Ukrainian forces by sending troops, Russia would likely respond by sending its troops to supplement the Belarusian forces, which will likely exacerbate tensions between Russian and Belarusian forces and NATO.

  • Russia will likely provide Belarus with financial and political support to handle border tensions. This is very likely to trigger a series of protests from dissatisfied Belarusian citizens against Russian support and President Lukashenko’s authoritarian regime. These protests will likely cause the Lukashenko Administration to increase opponents’ arrests, tighten Internet controls, and use government funds to surveil citizens, very likely leading to EU and/or NATO imposed sanctions. EU and NATO will likely partner sanctions with countries like Germany, denying regulatory clearance to Russian capability to pump gas to western Europe via the newly-built Nord Stream 2 pipeline.

Date: December 1, 2021

Location: Lithuania

Parties involved: Lithuanian government; Lithuanian Parliament; Lithuanian Interior Minister Agne Bilotaite; Lithuanian Intelligence Community; Government of Poland; Belarusian government; Belarusian organized crime groups; Middle Eastern migrants; EU

The event: Lithuania’s government stated it would ask the Lithuanian Parliament to extend the state of emergency along Lithuania’s border with Belarus for another month.[3] Lithuanian Interior Minister Agne Bilotaite proposed to the Parliament to also declare a state of emergency on its border with Poland from December 10, 2021.[4] This proposal comes after Lithuania experienced large migration flows coming from Belarus in the recent months.[5] The EU accuses the Belarusian government of smuggling thousands of Middle Eastern migrants into the European continent by letting them cross via Lithuania and Poland.[6] The EU states that the Belarusian government is using hybrid warfare tactics to destabilize Europe by using migrants as tools to pressure the EU.[7]

Analysis and Implications:

  • If the Lithuanian Parliament approves the extension of the state of emergency on its border with Belarus, the hybrid warfare tactics will almost certainly not end as Belarusian organized crime groups will very likely continue to smuggle Middle Eastern migrants into Lithuania. It is very likely Belarusian smuggler networks will continue to be established and enlarged to enable and facilitate illegal migration and evade Lithuanian intelligence services. This will very likely result in a continuation of migrant flow to Lithuania, posing a high risk to the safety of migrant groups as they will very likely face poor living conditions on the Lithuania-Belarus border.

  • If the Lithuanian Parliament approves the proposal to declare a state of emergency on its border with Poland, the Lithuanian government will almost certainly impose strict border checks on its border with Poland. In response, migrant groups will likely try to find shelter in the country they currently reside in. This will very likely result in an overload in asylum applications in Poland and Belarus, very likely increasing the likelihood of Belarus violating migrant rights to push them out of the country.

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[1]Vladimir Putin and Alexander Lukashenko” by Kremlin.ru licensed under Creative Commons

[2] Belarus announces military drills with Russia near Ukraine border, Reuters, November 2021, https://www.reuters.com/world/europe/belarus-announces-military-drills-with-russia-near-ukraine-border-2021-11-29/

[3] Lithuania mulls state of emergency on Polish border to stop migrants, Reuters, December 2021, https://www.reuters.com/world/europe/lithuania-mulls-state-emergency-polish-border-stop-migrants-2021-12-01/

[4] Lithuania moves to extend state of emergency, including on border with Poland, LRT, December 2021, https://www.lrt.lt/en/news-in-english/19/1554824/lithuania-moves-to-extend-state-of-emergency-including-on-border-with-poland

[5] Lithuanian migrant crisis enters new phase as influx ceases, AP, August 2021, https://apnews.com/article/europe-immigration-migration-lithuania-6d98dd6bd84c0f968b2f856b60f800cf

[6] EU-Belarus relations: State of play - Human rights situation, European Parliament, November 2021, https://www.europarl.europa.eu/thinktank/en/document/EPRS_BRI(2021)698806

[7] Lithuania mulls state of emergency on Polish border to stop migrants, Reuters, December 2021, https://www.reuters.com/world/europe/lithuania-mulls-state-emergency-polish-border-stop-migrants-2021-12-01/

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