Poland-Belarus migration wars: who is to blame?

It has been called the weaponisation of migrants. But, with the Poles more culturally averse to migration than their western allies, it may be better described as part of the EU's own internal split.

The EU Civil War

The EU is divided. In the east, we have more conservative states such as Poland and Hungary. In the west, there are those liberal-leaning, more (so-called) advanced democracies in Western Europe. The members of the eastern flank of the EU (and by extension NATO) see migrants as hostile objects. The migrants are weapons - like guns flying into a country to shoot people and cause chaos. The other, frankly more important EU states do not see migrants this way but rather as a way to reinvigorate their economy with fresh workers - more like shovels than guns - who don't need 18 years to be constructed before being used.

Although the leading NATO states (now including the US) have overwhelmingly condemned Belarus for letting migrants cross their border to Poland, it is inconsistent with their own positive view of migrants. Their insincere condemnation is really just an extension of their disdain for the current Belarusian leader Lukashenko, whose political opponents have been explicitly endorsed by Western powers and unilaterally recognised as the country's new regime by at least Lithuania.

Are migrants weapons?

Mindless NATO chants for Belarus to stop its supposed weaponisation of migrants, portraying migrants as agents of foreign harm rather than people, will only work for as long as civil society organisations such as humanitarian NGOs are not involved or on the scene. It is easy enough for governments to make propaganda-like statements about the vague evils of their opponents and use warlike language while no-one else is present at the scene of the controversy, but the liberal civil society of the West will likely side against Poland for its anti-immigration views.

Despite attempts to call on Belarus to take responsibility for the refugees, no expert of migration would tell you that the migrants are trying to stay in Belarus. The destination of the migrants, as in every other similar case, is the European Union. To claim Belarus is somehow the party abusing the rights of the migrants by letting them gather on the border to the EU, their destination, is absurd. They are gathering there because they know the EU will let them in, and it will. The decision to delay and potentially expose the migrants to an approaching deadly winter will be the EU's decision.

The EU's problem is still its own problem, even if 'Putin did it'

Even if Belarus and Russia are conspiring to create the cultural rift between the eastern and western EU sooner than it would otherwise happen, it is still inevitable. If Belarus was not aiding migration through its border to Poland, the migration would eventually just come from somewhere else and the same controversy would happen, with the Polish government receiving all the condemnation from its allies. 

Blaming Lukashenko or Putin for painful problems in the innards of the West itself does not do anything to alleviate them. Problems still exist and have to be dealt with, even if they are the result of foreign mischief or trickery. The same lesson must be learned in America, where the claim that Trump voters were simply tricked by Russia sounds patronising and does nothing to change their radicalised minds or address why so many of them were attracted to extremist views in the first place. Sooner or later, Western alliances have to deal with their internal tensions rather than calling the name of a foreign country in the belief this magically moves their problem elsewhere.

Remember who destroyed the homelands of refugees?

Finally, we must remember who created the migrant flows. These are the result of chaos that needed not be created. The United States and allies did not need need to impose their liberal democratic ideology using sanctions, aerial bombardment and other means of force against countries in the Middle East, to the point of neglecting human life and living standards. Poland was a huge offender in this, zealously following America into Iraq in 2003, supporting every reckless military adventure by every American administration in the hope America will return the favour one day (spoiler: it won't).

Poland helped to create the instability, chaos and destroyed infrastructure that migrants are fleeing from in the Middle East. If it does not welcome the consequences of American foreign policy, much as it does not welcome the prevalent liberal ideology and civil society at the heart of NATO and the EU, it should rethink its relationship with its allies.