Fears move NATO and its allies because of the Wagner fighters
Concern has increased dramatically in NATO and its allies since Wagner forces began arriving in Belarus after a short-lived insurgency in Russia.
Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said that about 100 Wagner fighters in Belarus approached the border with Poland, specifically a strategically sensitive area known as Suwalki Gap. “Now the situation has become more serious,” he told reporters. “This is definitely a step towards another mixed attack on Polish soil.”
An earlier incident led to further concerns, as two Belarusian helicopters entered Polish airspace at low altitude while conducting the exercises.
The Polish Ministry of Defense reported the incident to NATO, which said it was monitoring the situation.
Poland, Lithuania and Latvia – members of NATO and the European Union that borders Belarus – have already been on alert since large numbers of migrants and refugees began arriving at their borders from Belarus two years ago. They accused Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko, an ally of Russia, of opening the migration route in an operation of “hybrid warfare” designed to create instability in the West.
A NATO official said: “NATO is closely tracking the situation along its eastern border, including the two planes crossing … We are in close contact with the Polish authorities on this matter, and will continue to do what is necessary to ensure all of the alliance’s territory remains safe.” .
Poland, Lithuania and Latvia say they are deploying more troops and equipment on their borders.
Jontis Bogacs, head of the Latvian border guard, told Latvian media that security risks in the immediate vicinity of the Belarusian border had been high since Minsk began using migrants as a tool of “hybrid warfare” but increased with the arrival of Wagner. Pointing out that the border guards have begun to train a special force to respond. Various provocations
The President of Lithuania, Gitanas Nauseda, explained that it would be tempting for the Wagner Group to use its presence near the Lithuanian border (for various provocations).
Others suggested that no one should overestimate the capabilities of an armed group.
Lorinas Cassionas, chair of the SEMAS Defense and National Security Committee, told reporters that Wagner’s mercenaries in Belarus with their current fighting strength do not pose a conventional military threat. And whether they pose a significant threat in the future, “will depend on other scenarios, and how they are armed and ordered.”
And in Poland, some critics of the government believe it is exaggerating the threat in order to present itself as tough on security ahead of parliamentary elections this fall. Opposition leader Donald Tusk accused the ruling party of using Wagner to create fear ahead of the election, something the party denied.
Some Poles also criticized the authorities for initially refusing to acknowledge that Belarusian helicopters had entered Polish airspace. Initially, the military insisted that the Belarusian planes had not entered Poland. But after local residents posted pictures on social media of aircraft with Belarusian insignia several kilometers from the border inside Poland, the Defense Ministry issued a statement saying that this was true.
The US ambassador to the United Nations, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, said earlier this week that the US views the Wagner Group – whose forces have fought in Ukraine and also operates in Africa – as a threat.
We have seen their malicious efforts on the continent of Africa. So we are certainly concerned that this group, at the behest of the Russian government – because they do not operate independently of the Russian government – poses a threat to all of us. We have to make sure the message is clear that any attacks by the Wagner Group will be seen as an attack. by the Russian government.