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PMC “Wagner” and the Polish Elections. Warsaw Strengthens Eastern Border

Columns of military equipment moved to the east of Poland. The General Staff of the Polish Army announced the start of Operation Safe Podlachie . It was decided to send a thousand soldiers and about 200 units of military equipment to the east of the country, to the border with Belarus.

“The purpose of the operation is the training presence of units of the ground forces and the demonstration of our will and ability to immediately respond to attempts to destabilize the situation on our border,” the General Staff said in a statement. What is happening on the eastern border of Poland and what is the main threat to Poles in the summer of 2023?

Mercenaries in Belarus

The failed march of the Wagnerites on Moscow received a considerable response in Poland. After, as part of an agreement with Alexander Lukashenko, the mercenaries of the PMC “Wagner” “left” to Belarus, the authoritarian ruler of this country said that they could become instructors for Belarusian soldiers. However, it is still not known exactly how many Wagnerites will actually end up in Belarus. It is assumed that several thousand mercenaries will arrive, the maximum number appearing in the Polish media is 8,000.

Chairman of the ruling Law and Justice party in Poland, Yaroslav Kaczynski , who decided to return to the government and again took the post of Deputy Prime Minister, said that due to the presence of Wagner PMC in Belarus, measures were taken to protect the Polish eastern border. In particular, the number of forces deployed in this area has been increased. Polish Deputy Minister of National Defense Wojciech Skurkiewicz , echoing the Deputy Prime Minister, warned of possible provocations ahead of the NATO summit in Lithuania scheduled for July 11-12. The deputy minister added that the Wagnerites can be used, for example, “to exacerbate the migration crisis on the Polish-Belarusian or Lithuanian-Belarusian border by introducing mercenaries into migrant groups.”

The situation on the Polish-Belarusian border has remained tense since 2021, when a sharp increase in the number of attempts to illegally cross the border from Belarus to Poland began. Since the beginning of 2023, Polish border guards have recorded more than 12,000 such cases. Last year, a wall was built on the Polish-Belarusian border, the length of which is 186 km, and the height is 5.5 m. In addition to border guards, the police and military personnel of the Polish Army are also responsible for protecting the border in this area.

Now, by order of the Minister of Internal Affairs of Poland, Mariusz Kaminski, additional forces were sent to the Polish-Belarusian border – 500 police officers and employees of the anti-terrorist unit.

“Basically, the full strength of two border guard detachments was mobilized in the number indicated by the minister, that is, 5 thousand, to which two thousand soldiers have already joined. To further strengthen this deterrence potential and, let’s say, prepare for these unlikely, but possible options , we sent a group of five hundred police officers and employees of the anti-terrorist unit to the border,” Deputy Minister of Internal Affairs and Administration Blaže Poboža said on the Polsat News TV channel . He noted that the forces stationed there will also receive additional equipment.

So far there has been no organized movement of members of this group

When asked by the presenter about what the Polish authorities think about the possible actions of the Wagnerites in Belarus, Pobozhi replied that at the moment neither the Polish nor the Ukrainian special services observe “any kind of organized movement of members of this group.” The deputy minister, however, added that “we cannot exclude this, because, firstly, preparations are underway for the construction of a town (which will presumably house mercenaries. – RS) , or it is already being built, and secondly, they can throw their units in Belarus dispersed”.

In addition to the wall on the border with Belarus, the Polish government decided to build a similar fence on the border with the Kaliningrad region, which has recently been called Krulevetskaya in Poland. The construction of the fence, equipped with cameras and motion sensors, began in April. Its length will be 199 km, the barrier will be divided into 12 sections. At the end of June, the press secretary of the border service Anna Mikhalskayareported that 1,250 poles for cameras have already been installed and 90 km of network cables have been laid to connect these sites. As Michalskaya noted, the first section of the wall will be put into operation in mid-July. A fully electronic system on the border with Russia should be ready by the end of September. The total cost of implementing this plant is over PLN 373 million (over $90.5 million).

Closed borders

Strengthening the border is not the only measure taken by the Polish government against the hostile regimes in Belarus and Russia. The sanctions policy is also, according to the Polish authorities, an effective method of pressure and opposition.

Recall that Poland closed the checkpoints on the border with Belarus, now only one of them is working – in Terespol. Earlier, Warsaw banned trucks registered in Russia and Belarus from entering the country. The Belarusian authorities, in turn, introduced similar restrictions on Polish carriers. They can enter and leave Belarus through any border checkpoints for trucks, but only on the Polish-Belarusian section of the border. Checkpoints on the border of Belarus with Lithuania and Latvia cannot be used.

Maciej Wonsik , Deputy Minister of the Interior and Administration of Poland , said on the air of Polish Radio that after consultations with Polish carriers, a decision was made to ban semi-trailers of trucks with Belarusian and Russian registration from entering the country from June 1. The Belarusian government responded by banning the passage of trailers and semi-trailers with Polish registration. This actually led to the cessation of traffic on the border.

De facto, these sanctions were imposed against the regime of Alexander Lukashenko in response to repressions against activists of the Union of Poles in Belarus and, in particular, Andrzej Poczobut, a member of the organization’s board, journalist from Grodno. On May 26, the Supreme Court of Belarus rejected the appeal and upheld the sentence that had previously been handed down to him – 8 years in a strict regime colony. Independent Belarusian human rights organizations consider the activist of the Polish minority a political prisoner.

Nuclear weapons and the “nuclear” electorate

At the same time, the Polish government is concerned about another threat from Moscow and Minsk – nuclear. On July 1, the construction of a storage facility for tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus was to be completed. On June 30, Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki asked NATO to deploy nuclear weapons in the country. According to the Polish government, this would be a mirror response to the actions of the Kremlin. “Due to the fact that Russia intends to deploy tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus, we appeal to the entire NATO with a request to join us in the Nuclear Sharing program,” the head of the Polish government said at a press conference in Brussels.

Nuclear Sharing is NATO’s nuclear deterrence program, which makes it possible to provide nuclear warheads to members of the North Atlantic Alliance that do not have their own nuclear weapons. Since November 2009, as part of this program, American nuclear weapons have been deployed in Belgium, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Turkey.

So far, the Americans have not given a clear answer to Poland’s request. If Washington agrees to the deployment of nuclear warheads in this country, then this would be an extraordinary and unprecedented step. After all, in this case, for the first time, nuclear weapons would be deployed on the territory of a country that joined NATO in the last 25 years – from the moment when the admission of former Soviet bloc countries to the union began.

As the program director of the Collegium of Eastern Europe, Adam Balzer, notes in a commentary to Radio Liberty, one should not expect such a decision in the near future.

– Of course, participation in the Nuclear Sharing program would enhance the security of Poland, but this is a conversation about something imaginary, – the expert notes. – Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki is now announcing Poland’s intention to become a member of this program in connection with the upcoming elections (parliamentary elections in Poland will take place no later than November 5. – RS). Speaking of Nuclear Sharing, he wants to show that the security of Poland is very important to him and that the government is extremely efficient in general. The absurdity of this situation lies in the fact that we say our own, and the Americans answer: we do not plan this. Of course, Polish politicians will answer that water wears away stone and at some point the Americans will change their minds, just as they changed their minds on many issues in the case of Ukraine, if we are talking about the supply of various kinds of weapons. However, I believe that Nuclear Sharing is such a serious issue that the Americans will not change their mind so easily in a few weeks.

We are dealing with real threats, although they are exaggerated by the authorities

Adam Balzer notes that the ruling Law and Justice party is skillfully using the narrative of threats from the east in its election campaign.

– If you watch the Polish government TV channel, you might get the impression that the full-scale war did not start on February 24, but with the migration crisis on the Polish-Belarusian border. Even the President and Prime Minister of Poland spoke about this. Of course, taking into account the terrible experience of Ukrainians who were victims of Russian aggression, such statements are simply scandalous. On the other hand, we must admit that we are dealing with real threats, especially if we talk about the deployment of the “Wagner group” in Belarus, although they are exaggerated by the authorities. Real problems can be exaggerated and used by the ruling party in order to introduce a state of emergency in parts of Poland, which, of course, will affect the conduct of elections. Probably everything will depend on the polls. You need to wait until September-October, because, As various sociological surveys show, in Poland a significant group of voters makes a decision in the last week before voting. It cannot be ruled out that the authorities will decide that it is better to hold elections a little later. This would be a decision that would provoke an increase in internal tension in Poland. Personally, I think that such a scenario is unlikely, since I am somewhat pessimistic about the possibility of a victory for the liberal opposition in the elections,” says Adam Balzer.

Source : svoboda