The current stand-off at the Belarus-Poland border will enter the geopolitics textbooks. At least we hope so because the alternative might trigger an outright war, and then we will forget about textbooks.
In the past, much less was often needed as casus belli. In our times, outright war should absolutely be avoided because the spillover could trigger a nuclear holocaust where everything will burn, books first.
Vladimir Putin likes such atmospherics. It is not by chance that his nuclear-capable strategic bombers are currently flying over the area.
Is Europe under siege? On the south-eastern flank, Turkey is eagerly waiting on the sidelines.
Erdogan’s Turkey stands ready to release another human wave, as he did in 2020, this time in at least at three strategic locations: the Greek islands, the Evros river (Meric in Turkish, Maritsa in Bulgarian), and Cyprus, where a large number of refugees from the Middle East have started crossing from the Turkey-controlled north of the divided island.
Outgoing German Chancellor Angela Merkel has spoken to Putin by phone in one of her last acts as Europe’s chief power broker. This is what she might have said and how he might have responded. She speaks Russian, and he speaks German.
Vladimir, you can stop this.
Angela, don’t listen to what the Poles are saying. I’m not responsible. If you have a problem, speak to Lukashenko.
You speak to him. He listens to you.
But this is not my problem. I don’t have a problem. You have a problem. And tell the Poles to behave themselves. What are these crazy ideas about a regime change in Minsk? And I hear all kinds of stupid things like diverting airplanes bound for Minsk… Remind them that Russia has obligations to support Belarus militarily.
Vladimir, are you threatening me with World War III?
Angela, I am not. You guys, and your American friends, have been encouraging the Poles ever since the Berlin Wall fell. Don’t be surprised now that this is the result you have achieved.
– Vladimir, I’m more fed up with the Poles than you are. And I have been giving more attention to your concerns than anybody else. You know that. And I will be gone soon. Speak to Lukashenko and stop this. In the name of our cooperation.
Indeed, if a single person can defuse the tensions, his name is Vladimir Putin – but he wouldn’t do it for free. And after Angela is gone, his interlocutor will not be the next German chancellor but Emmanuel Macron in Paris.
The prize Putin covets for his mediation is only one – the acceptance by the West that Ukraine is Russia’s backyard. And it would be easier for him to obtain it from Macron, who in his most important speeches on foreign affairs repeatedly mentions Russia but usually omits to mention Ukraine.
Ukraine knows this, of course, and it’s not by chance that its foreign minister is now in Washington. But the Biden administration is obsessed with China and has no stomach to divert more efforts to European tensions at this point in time.
The end game of the Belarus-Poland border crisis is not yet certain. But there is a strong hypothesis that a lot is at stake.
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