On Friday, President Biden said that the border crisis was of “great concern.” Unfortunately, he wasn’t referring to the crisis he created on our southern border but the one on the border between Poland and Belarus. He said that those concerns had been communicated to both Russia and Belarus, both of which are, as you’d expect, completely ignoring him.
Putin, whose troops are again massing on Ukraine’s eastern border, is hiking gas prices for the EU and threatening to flood it with Middle Eastern refugees (mostly Iraqi) passing through his quasi-puppet Alexander Lukashenko’s Belarus.
Putin is at liberty to do all those things because of the incompetence and weakness of Old Joe and the rest of the Brandon administration. Secretary of State Tony Blinken warned Putin that it would be “a serious mistake” if Russia invaded Ukraine but — as Putin well knows — if Russia invaded Ukraine the Biden response would be nothing more than a strongly worded diplomatic protest.
The situation between Belarus and Poland is quite serious but one unforeseen effect is that it has caused at least a temporary solution to the rift between the EU and Poland, one if its members.
Only a few weeks ago, Poland was the biggest villain in the EU. Its courts had decided that they, instead of the EU’s courts, were the supreme legal and constitutional authority in Poland. It’s a question of sovereignty. But the undemocratic EU cannot allow such vestiges of independence.
The problem goes back many months. In July, Poland refused to dismantle its mechanism for disciplining judges, which the EU contends puts dictatorial power in the Polish government. It also objected to Poland’s decisions on LGBTQWhatever rights.
Those disputes seemed to be heading to some sort of EU-Polish crisis with economic sanctions and Poland’s EU voting rights at stake. The EU’s president, Ursula von der Leyen, insisted that “E.U. law has primacy over national law, including constitutional provisions.”
Then fall turned into winter and — with Putin’s under-the-table encouragement — Belarusian dictator Lukashenko decided to send thousands of refugees from Iraq and other Middle Eastern countries into Poland.
The Poles reacted strongly, sending thousands of troops to bar the illegal aliens’ entry and promising to build border walls to prevent them from coming. Many, if not most, of the illegals would head to Germany and France to take advantage of their social welfare systems, which of course the EU fears. Now, suddenly, Polish President Andrzej Duda and his government are the heroes of the EU.
The EU is even considering how to help Poland pay for border walls.
Its ruling council will consider sanctions against Belarus this week. Lukashenko is threatening to close off the two key gas pipelines that run through his country to the EU if any sanctions are imposed, which is enough to get the EU to back down. He couldn’t do so without Putin’s approval.
Meanwhile, the flights between Iraq and Belarus continue and thousands of would-be immigrants are either stuck on the border between Polish and Belarusian forces – freezing and reportedly starving – or encamped near the border in Belarus waiting for a chance to cross into the EU.
Putin has ordered Russian bombers to fly around the Belarus-Poland border to threaten Polish forces while the refugees are massing below them.
Putin is playing a long game. He can push the EU around by juggling its gas supplies, urge Lukashenko to push refugees into Poland, and order Russian bombers to circle the Polish-Belarusian border. At some point, possibly soon, he will see the opportunity to conquer Ukraine.
Putin has managed to create a gas crisis in the EU by building pipelines that make the EU more dependent on Russian gas than it already is. He’s built some — like the Nordstream 1 and 2 pipelines — around Ukraine to deprive that nation of the revenues it gets from those pipelines. Meanwhile, by reducing supplies and storage of the natural gas, Russia is both raising the price of natural gas and trying to impose its will on the EU.
The EU, as usual, is unconcerned about its members’ national security and is most concerned with the five-fold increase in the price of gas which will depress its members’ economies this winter.
It’s very likely that Putin’s actions on the Ukraine and Belarus pipelines is an effort to cement his control of energy supplies to Europe. He also intends to accelerate Germany’s final approval of the Nordstream 2 pipeline which is ready for operation. Nordstream 1 already supplies about forty percent of the gas that flows from Russia to the EU. Operation of Nordstream 2 will increase that percentage to well above fifty percent.
This column has frequently criticized the Nordstream 2 pipeline because its operation will make the EU vastly more dependent on Russia for energy. President Trump had imposed sanctions on companies working on the Nordstream 2 pipeline but Biden canceled them in May.
The gas squeeze is felt not just in Germany and France but elsewhere in the EU. Most of the natural gas that comes into Spain and Portugal comes from North Africa. Earlier this month, Algeria stopped sending gas through its Maghreb pipeline. Did Putin encourage it to do so?
Russia is also reportedly reducing its storage of gas in eight Russian-controlled facilities within Europe that could also slow the supply to the EU. Putin holds all the cards and the EU knows it. Putin will, at some point soon, win the gas war and the EU gas supply will be subject to his demands.
The EU’s economic and military security depends on Russian gas. Putin can reduce the supply any time he believes he can threaten the EU into inaction on other fronts.
Russia’s buildup of troops on Ukraine’s border is not new. Putin massed troops there last year and again earlier this year, but the current troop buildup has been characterized as unusual for several reasons, not the least of which is that it now contains paratroops.
Ukraine, which is not a NATO member, faces Russian invasion or an escalation of aggression by Russian-controlled militias in the Donbas region. Tony Blinken’s warning against Russia invading Ukraine doesn’t rise to the seriousness of an empty threat. Biden won’t use military force to defend Ukraine and both Putin and Ukrainian President Zelensky know that.
Zelensky has been lobbying hard to get Ukraine into NATO. That won’t happen because we and the other NATO nations don’t want to defend it against further Russian aggression and outright invasion. If Biden were a competent president, he would demand that Ukraine become a NATO member and push the other NATO nations to agree.
We have agreed to send Ukraine some military defenses, such as Javelin anti-tank missiles, that it has been begging for but, given Biden’s incompetence and weakness, that limit on our defense of Ukraine is probably the best we can do.
Putin knows he holds all the cards necessary to get the EU to back down and let some or all of the would-be immigrants to pass from Belarus and into the EU. The only questions now are how the EU will paper over its capitulation and when Putin will order an outright invasion of Ukraine.
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