It is November 2021 and thousands of people from Syria and Iraq are trying to cross the Belarus border into the EU. The migrants are transported to the border by Belarusian officials. On the EU side this has been labelled as an attempt to destabilise the EU with the migrant influx.



We cannot look inside Belarus' President Lukashenko's head, but what arguments are there to assume this is indeed an attempt to destabilise the EU?

So what are the arguments for Belarusian government's motives being about destabilizing the EU?

  • Comments deleted. Please don't use comments to answer the question. If you would like to answer, please post a real answer.
    – Philipp
    Nov 22, 2021 at 15:50

2 Answers 2


EU internal politics are sensitive to migration issues, even small numbers.

  • In the past, handling the influx of refugees/migrants exposed internal divisions in the EU. The Dublin III agreement puts the duty of examining asylum applications and housing the refugees on the state where they first enter the EU, putting first the southern border states and now the eastern border states at a disadvantage. Ironically, some of the states facing refugees now were most reluctant to accept a fairer solution in 2015.
    So a few thousand refugees are "a threat," not because the EU cannot house and feed them but because the EU cannot agree how to house and feed them. Belarus exposes this internal faultline.
  • The EU has refused to recognize the Lukashenko regime after elections which are widely seen as fraudulent. Of course the Belarusian government sees things differently. There are various sanctions in place.
  • Lukashenko's public statements, like this recent interview, make it clear that he is aware that the "tourists" he is transporting are really illegal immigrants.

Compare Turkey, which got significant payments from the EU to hold back refugees, despite European criticism of the Turkish civil rights records.


It's impossible to understand motivations without understanding context. Belarus' president Alexander Lukashenko has been politically isolated for a long time; there's only so many people he could learn from.

After the American-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 (and owing to Belarusian dealings with Iraq and Iran), the term "the last dictatorship in Europe" was used to describe Belarus. Lukashenko has been in power for over 25 years, and his rule has been characterised by prioritising stability over change (political, economic, cultural).

Lukashenko doesn't have many friends. Vladimir Putin's Russia has effectively subsidised Belarus with cheap natural gas, and Russian oil and gas exports are piped through Belarus too. Lukashenko's other friend is Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

During the height of the migrant crisis during the worst years of the war in Syria, the EU agreed to pay Turkey to reduce the flow of people attempting to enter the EU from Turkey. Erdogan understands the power of using refugees for bargaining with the EU, and Putin understands the power of creating trouble along borders (e.g. pro-Russian separatists in Georgia, Ukraine, Moldova are recognised and supported only by Russia).

While Belarus has endured sanctions in the past, they never posed an existential threat to Lukashenko's rule. That threat manifested in the 2020 protests, which were the largest in Belarus' history. These protests began after Lukashenko said that he would seek a sixth term as president, intensifying after an election widely regarded as fraudulent. Lukashenko's rival, Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, claimed that the election was rigged and was then arrested. The EU and Ukraine did not recognise the result, but Russia and Turkey did.

Consequently, Lukashenko became paranoid and reckless. Belarusian police arrested Russian mercenaries, surprising everyone, and provoking Russia to ask why their citizens had been arrested. Then a Ryanair plane was forced to land in Minsk after Belarusian security claimed there was a bomb threat. However, after the plane landed, an opposition journalist and their girlfriend were seized. As Ryanair are an Irish airline, Ireland demanded an EU response, and sanctions followed.

Given this context, it seems likely that Lukashenko was motivated to seek revenge against the EU by using tactics he knew worked, because he is friends with leaders who already have been using similar tactics.


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