Polish analyst: We should care about Belarus like we care about Ukraine

Rally of Belarusians in Warsaw / Euroradio

Rally of Belarusians in Warsaw / Euroradio

In less than two months, Poland will hold parliamentary elections. The campaign is taking place against a background of unprecedented danger that Poles feel from the Belarusian side. On the border, there are Belarusian helicopters and an invasion of migrants. A little further away - the Wagnerites. Lukashenka's regime cultivates hatred against Poles, systematically persecutes Polish passport holders and destroys Polish cemeteries.

How does the "Belarusian question" influence the election results? Is the opposition taking advantage of the problems of the Polish authorities in the East? Who are the opponents of the ruling Law and Justice party, and what is their position on Belarus? We spoke about this in an exclusive interview with Polish journalist and analyst Slawomir Sierakowski.

Польскі аналітык: Мы павінны дбаць пра Беларусь роўна столькі ж, як пра Украіну
Slawomir Sierakowski at the Belarusian march on the third anniversary of the fraudulent elections / facebook.com/SlawomirSierakowski1979

Euroradio: Warsaw is very nervous about the situation in Belarus. Even the last border crossings are in danger of being closed. At the same time, experts say that the Wagnerites are not a real threat to Poland. Why then is so much attention paid to them?

Slawomir Sierakowski: This whole situation with the fence [on the Polish-Belarusian border] is, frankly speaking, quite absurd. The Polish authorities are using it for propaganda purposes. Please remember that these authorities - Andrzej Duda, Mateusz Morawiecki, Jaroslaw Kaczynski - may appear democratic and liberal from the outside, especially compared to Putin's Russia. But in fact they are considered populist and far-right in Europe. And they are primarily concerned with self-preservation using illiberal, undemocratic methods.

Польскі аналітык: Мы павінны дбаць пра Беларусь роўна столькі ж, як пра Украіну
Jaroslaw Kaczynski, Andrzej Duda, Mateusz Morawiecki / PAP

Euroradio: So the Polish authorities are not serious about the Wagnerites? Is it just propaganda?

Slawomir Sierakowski: Of course the Wagnerites are brutal, dangerous bandits. They can and probably will organize provocations on the border. But nobody believes that they will invade Poland.

Although it's worth remembering that the Polish army has been severely weakened by these authorities. The best commanders were removed from it in 2015. The authorities treat everyone who had contacts with their predecessors, including the military, as enemies. And now they are rushing to buy weapons abroad that could have been here years ago.

Slawomir Sierakowski is a journalist, sociologist, political analyst, researcher at the German Institute for Foreign Policy (DGAP), and co-founder of Krytyka Polityczna. In the summer of 2022, he organized a successful fundraising campaign for the purchase of a Bayraktar drone for Ukraine.

Euroradio: Is Poland ready to use weapons in response to a provocation by the Wagnerites? Even on the territory of Belarus, if necessary?

Slawomir Sierakowski: No, I don't think so. NATO is very careful that there is no direct conflict with Russia, so there should be no conflicts in Belarus. But if the Wagnerians crossed the border or if some Belarusian troops crossed the border, the Polish side would certainly shoot.

Польскі аналітык: Мы павінны дбаць пра Беларусь роўна столькі ж, як пра Украіну
Wall on the Polish-Belarusian border / Grzegorz Dąbrowski / Agencja Wyborcza.pl

Slawomir Sierakowski: Hardly anyone in Poland understands what is happening in Belarus. It seems to me that few people are really interested. There is so much concentration on Ukraine that there is not enough attention to Belarus. Besides, the authorities have largely managed to calm people down with this fence. Remember also that when refugees from Ukraine or Belarus come to Poland, Poles look at them differently than they do at migrants from Iraq or Syria.

Another paradox: last year alone, Law and Justice party allowed 130,000 migrants from the Middle East, Asia, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and India to enter Poland. It turns out that this government, on the one hand, accepts the largest number of migrants in history and, on the other hand, organizes propaganda performances, such as at the Belarusian border. Unfortunately, they are not interested in the fate of the Belarusians for whom the closure of the border is a threat.

Euroradio: The head of the Ministry of Internal Affairs says that Lukashenka wants to destabilize the situation before the elections because of the Wagnerites. How realistic is that?

Slawomir Sierakowski: I remember when I was in Minsk during the protests and I invited Donald Tusk, who was then an important European politician, for an interview. He told me that the Belarusian opposition would get as much money as they could use. He's very biased on the issues of freedom and independence of Belarus. Like Pavel Kowal [Seimas deputy from the Civic Coalition - Euroradio] or Radek Sikorski.

That is why Lukashenka would not benefit from the change of power in Poland. I think he should like Kaczynski better, because he destroys the unity of the European Union, weakens Poland and Polish democracy, makes the country more and more authoritarian, and is increasingly unpopular abroad. So if the Kremlin and the Belarusian dictator really want to interfere in the elections and help the opposition, they will prepare ropes around their necks.

Польскі аналітык: Мы павінны дбаць пра Беларусь роўна столькі ж, як пра Украіну
Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya and Donald Tusk /Twitter/@donaldtuskEPP

Euroradio: The other day Lukashenka said that he had instructed his prime minister to call Poland and propose a plan of peace and good neighborliness. In your opinion, why the sudden change of rhetoric? Are such statements coordinated with Putin?

Slawomir Sierakowski: It is difficult to say. Lukashenka has always been smarter than Putin and has been deceiving him very effectively for many years. I think that as soon as he feels a little stronger and Russia weakens, he will play his own game again, independent of the Kremlin. Lukashenka's game has always been to reach at least a minimum understanding with the West and at the same time to benefit from cooperation with Moscow.

Euroradio: The reaction of the Polish side to this statement is the call for the cessation of attacks on the border and the release of political prisoners. Not only Andrzej Poczobut, but all political prisoners. What can make Lukashenka take such steps?

Slawomir Sierakowski: In the current situation I don't think anything can convince him, because the conflict between the West and Russia is very acute. I think that if Ukraine achieves military success, Putin becomes a politician who is considered a failure in the Kremlin, and some chaos starts there, then Lukashenka will be left alone and will try to make friends with the West. And then the absolute precondition for any negotiations is the release of political prisoners.

Польскі аналітык: Мы павінны дбаць пра Беларусь роўна столькі ж, як пра Украіну
Slawomir Sierakowski and Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya / Facebook

Slawomir Sierakowski: I think that the actions of the leaders and especially the leaders of the Belarusian opposition are just very good and effective. The fact that there was a meeting between Joe Biden and Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya means that she is treated as the legitimate president of Belarus. It is worth saying that Tsikhanouskaya is not wrong, that is, she behaves very, very reasonable, she is a very effective politician. Even if before she did not think she was a politician, now she is. Today she is a real leader.

She makes a great impression in the European salons. She is very good in the literal sense. She may not look like Bill Clinton or Tony Blair, but she has her own unique and very positive aura. Besides, Belarus is in the position it is in, so Tsikhanouskaya cannot be a politician with a smile on her face. And that is quite natural.

Pavel Latushka is very active in Poland. He seeks contacts with the media and also tries to communicate with Polish politicians and diplomats. I know that he is very much appreciated, for example, by the ambassadors of other countries in Poland. And that is very good.

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