Poland, Lithuania and Latvia are considering triggering NATO‘s Article 4 over the crisis unfolding at their borders with Belarus, as thousands of migrants stuck in freezing conditions continue to try to cross into Europe through Poland.
Thousands of people have been trying to cross into Poland in recent days, sitting on the ground near the border crossing despite the near freezing temperatures. Katarzyna Zdanowicz, a spokesperson for the Polish Border Guard, told CNN on Monday morning, November 15, that around 4,000 people were camped out along the border and that the situation was “very tense and very dangerous.”
Zdanowicz said there had been “forced mass attempts to cross the border” in the Kuznica area by a group of 60 people on Sunday night. Those who tried to cross behaved “aggressively,” according to the border guard service. They threw stones and branches at Polish border police, she said, adding that weapons were being “pointed towards our servicemen” and a “flare gun” was fired towards them.
The US, UK and EU have accused Russia of colluding with Belarus to weaponize migrants while preparing for an invasion of Ukraine in order to destabilize Europe. Russia has denied the claims.
Polish Prime Minister, Mateusz Morawiecki told the Polish Press Agency that the three countries were in talks on whether to trigger the article, which calls for consultation when “the territorial integrity, political independence or security of any of the parties is threatened.”
NATO’s article 4 sees an attack as one as an attack on all.
A NATO official said last week that the military alliance was monitoring the escalating situation and that “NATO allies stand in full solidarity with Poland and other allies affected by Belarus’ instrumentalization of migrants.”
The official said Belarus “bears responsibility for the border crisis and the Lukashenko regime’s use of migrants as a hybrid tactic is inhumane, illegal and unacceptable.”
Polish border guards used loudspeakers on Monday to warn people at the Ku?nica-Bruzgi border crossing that force may be used against them if they don’t follow orders. The authorities also deployed a helicopter and a water cannon into the area, although the water cannon has not been used.
Belarus’ State Border Committee said the people moving towards the border have “purely peaceful intentions,” according to Belarus state media BelTA.
“The refugees gathered warm clothes, tents, sleeping bags, hoping for a positive outcome of the situation. By noon, they self-organized into a large column and began to move towards the Bruzgi checkpoint,” Anton Bychkovsky, the official representative of the border committee, was quoted as saying.