Polish PM in Estonia: We are facing a new form of war
Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas (Reform) met with her Polish counterpart Mateusz Morawiecki during the premier's short Estonia visit on Sunday. Morawiecki said at a joint press conference that there is a new form of war taking place on the eastern border of the European Union where migrants and misinformation are used as weapons.
The aim of the meeting was to discuss the regional security situation and cooperation in international organizations.
Kallas thanked Morawiecki for Poland defending the EU and NATO borders, adding Poland has done a brilliant job.
"Estonian security currently starts on the Polish, Lithuanian and Latvian borders. We stand steadfastly in the support of our partners, helping them to manage the crisis mainly politically but also diplomatically," Kallas said.
She said the situation on the border is tense and will likely remain that way for some time. "Attempts to cross the border have become more violent. We believe this pressure on the border will persist as Lukashenko has not achieved his aim," Kallas explained.
She said the exchange of information between allies is crucial in the current situation as is cooperation in international organizations to try and alleviate tensions.
"Our goal is the same – European security," Kallas remarked.
The Estonian PM suggested the EU, Estonia and Poland share the same view of events on the border – a hybrid attack on the NATO and EU border.
Kallas said that actions have three focal points. "Firstly, rapidly introducing new sanctions. We will not be giving in to extortion by the Lukashenko regime and laying down new forceful sanctions is one way to block the hybrid attack," the PM explained.
Secondly, efforts will concentrate on applying diplomatic pressure and attempts to ground flights bringing in migrants from countries of origin and transit. Kallas said that some success has been found already, while the pressure needs to be consistent.
"Thirdly, the focus is on alleviating the humanitarian situation in Belarus and sending people back to their home countries," Kallas said, adding that Belarus is responsible for the situation and allowing UN aid organization access to the migrants.
Kallas also touched on the continued conflict in eastern Ukraine. "The war is in its eighth year and we know Moscow is willing to escalate it at an opportune moment. Allied cooperation is aimed at preventing escalation. NATO will continue monitoring the situation and holding consultations between allies and with Ukraine," Kallas said.
The PM emphasized that the Estonian border is well guarded and there is currently no direct threat. "However, looking at events in neighboring countries, we need to boost our readiness. Estonia supports Poland in its efforts to protect the EU border every way it can," Kallas said in closing.
Morawiecki said Poland is facing a new form of war on its eastern border.
"The weapons wielded here are migrants and misinformation. It is hybrid warfare. We also need weapons to be used in the kind of propaganda warfare we are facing. Both the Lukashenko and Putin regimes are wielding propaganda very effectively," he said.
"We are dealing with synchronized crises that are being escalated. First, we can see a political crisis where people from the Middle East are used as a human shield. Secondly, there is the energy, gas crisis that has been artificially escalated. It also has to do with EU climate policy," Morawiecki added.
The Polish PM said that pressure is mounting on the NATO and EU eastern border, which is why allied cooperation, including with Estonia, matters.
Morawiecki thanked Estonia for supporting Poland. "We can see Estonia prepared to pledge troops to support our border guard, defend the Polish border. It is an important sign of solidarity and of practical value to our troops protecting the eastern border," he said.
"Lukashenko and Putin are still trying to split the EU and the West in general. It is one of their main weapons. That is also why they are trying to manufacture an artificial humanitarian crisis," Morawiecki said, adding that a humanitarian crisis in Belarus could easily be solved with the help of Polish aid workers, while Belarus is not allowing them to cross. He also said Poland is willing to help migrants return home.
Morawiecki also said Poland is willing to take diplomatic steps in Iraq and other countries in the Middle East from where migrants are arriving in Belarus. He added that some success has been found as the migrant flow from Iraq and Turkey has lessened.
The Polish PM said that representatives of Iraqi Kurdistan have pledged to combat human trafficking in their region.
Morawiecki said that the EU must concentrate on priorities.
"Poland emphasizes that the European Union must concentrate on priorities – security on the eastern border, energy and natural gas crises and the risks associated with launching Nord Stream 2 as it gives Russia additional levers for blackmail."
"We had a chance to discuss the matter this morning, and it is clear the Estonian PM shares our view, we are both acutely aware of the dangers. Both our countries are on the front line when talking about energy risks, availability of natural gas and military threats. Estonia's territorial integrity is at risk and we have the same understanding of the dangers involved. We need to react and uphold the principle of solidarity when threats are mounting. We need to step up our presence on the eastern border of the EU and NATO," Morawiecki said.
ERR journalist Arni Alandi asked Morawiecki what he thinks of EU, NATO and Western European countries' support and his expectations.
The premiere said that EU, USA and NATO allies have been supportive and understand the situation on Poland's eastern border. "I am grateful as this has not always been the case," he added.
"It is a sobering survey as we can see that this is a hybrid offensive. It is a serious threat to the everyday functioning of the European Union. Brussels needs to consider other priorities, looking at security, territorial integrity – the physical part – as well as energy security. That is what we need to concentrate on instead of focusing on institutions and second-rate topics. We should also emphasize that the people of Belarus are fighting for democratic values close to Estonia and Poland. We can see repressions against citizens in Belarus and they are escalating," Morawiecki said.
A reporter from Polish news outlet Polsat asked whether the country's threats of obstructing goods transport from Belarus have had an effect, saying that the migrant camp near the Kuznica railroad border crossing point disappeared after Poland threatened to close it.
Morawiecki assured the journalist that Poland is considering new and tougher economic sanctions.
"This means we are also considering closing the Polish-Belarusian border from our side. That said, we have certain rules and are moving forward by gradually escalating sanctions. We want to give Lukashenko the chance to organize the migrants' return to their own countries. Therefore, we started at Kuznica and our border control remains effective, while migrants have not yet been able to return to their countries."
The PM added that Poland is ready for the situation to escalate further which would call for tougher sanctions. He said there is video evidence of Belarusian soldiers sending migrants armed with knives after Polish border guards.
"This proves that Belarus is using very different scenarios that can be very drastic indeed. The actions of Belarusian soldiers could lead to escalation. Therefore, we are prepared for anything, including escalating sanctions by closing border points and stopping goods transport," the head of government said.
Morawiecki is also set to visit Latvia and Lithuania on Sunday.
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Editor: Marcus Turovski