JARYLOWKA, Poland — Poland’s defense minister said Saturday that the country has increased the number of troops protecting its border with Belarus as a deterrent amid “destabilizing” actions by its pro-Russian neighbor.
Mariusz Blaszczak met in Jarylowka, in eastern Poland, with some of the troops recently deployed close to the Belarus border.
He insisted that the increased military presence is purely a deterrent move, not a hostile act, as Minsk and Moscow are claiming.
“There is no doubt that the Belarus regime is cooperating with the Kremlin and that the attacks on the Polish border are intended to destabilize our country,” Blaszczak said.
Two Belarus military helicopters briefly entered Poland’s airspace last week, a move considered by Warsaw to be a deliberate provocation. Also a pro-government group in Belarus recently alleged that Poland’s politicians, who support Ukraine in its war against Russia’s aggression, were “igniting the fire of war with their actions and rhetoric” and being “driven by the frenzy of chauvinism.”
Blaszczak said that actions taken by Belarus “pose a threat to our security” and for that reason Poland is building up its “deterrence potential.”
PHOTOS: Polish minister says reinforcement at the border with Belarus is due to hostile rhetoric and actions
He said this week that up to 10,000 Polish Army and Territorial Defense troops will be stationed on the border with Belarus, in addition to the usual Border Guards. Some will be in active training and patrolling, others on standby.
Poland’s conservative ruling party, Law and Justice, will seek an unprecedented third term in parliamentary elections Oct. 15, and amid fierce campaigning it is trying to demonstrate that it is serious about the nation’s security. The government has been buying billions of dollars’ worth of military equipment and weapons, including from the U.S. and South Korea.
Officials in Moscow repeatedly voice groundless allegations that Poland intends on annexing western regions of Ukraine, and analysts say Poland has become the personification of the “collective enemy of Russia” due to its support for Ukraine and because western military equipment sent to Ukraine goes through Poland.
The Kremlin’s “main goal is to rattle Warsaw to decrease the military support for Ukraine and force Polish politicians to stay silent and fear provocations from Russia and Belarus,” Belarusian independent analyst Valery Karbalevich told The Associated Press.
“The Kremlin ramps up the hate towards Poland and ups the ante in the hope that the adversary will get scared, pull back or will react in a different way,” Karbalevich said. “Moscow very much doesn’t like that it is Poland that insists on new sanctions, advocates for Kyiv and actively supports Ukraine’s accession to the EU and NATO.”
Poland is also concerned about the presence in Belarus of Russian-linked mercenaries and about Middle East and African migrants trying to cross illegally from Belarus.
Poland and other countries along NATO’s eastern flank have accused Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko of taking migrants to the border in an act of “hybrid warfare” aimed at creating instability in the West.
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