Migrants in Belarus challenge Europeans to show their values

One of President Joe Biden’s favorite refrains is that the defining geopolitical contest of our time is between “democracy and autocracy.”

Just such a struggle is playing out now on the Poland-Belarus border. The autocratic Belarus government knows what it is doing: encouraging thousands of Middle East migrants to cross into Poland.

Why We Wrote This

President Biden’s contest between “autocracy and democracy” is playing out on the Belarus-Poland border. But European democracies are unprotected without a migration game plan.

But the reason this is so sensitive is that democratic Europe does not know what it is doing. The European Union has not managed to agree on a humane and efficient way of distinguishing political refugees from economic migrants. So Poland’s response, as a front-line EU member state, is simply to unroll the razor wire, send in 15,000 troops, and stop everyone from coming in.

If President Biden is right, this will not be the last time that countries such as Belarus, and its patron, Russia, seek to needle their European neighbors. That could prove a further stimulus for democracies to agree among themselves how to express their values when it comes to foreigners seeking refuge.

London

It’s been said so often by U.S. President Joe Biden that it has become almost a rhetorical refrain: that the defining geopolitical contest of our time is between “democracy and autocracy.” And that seems to be exactly the contest that is playing out this week in the heart of Europe, on the Belarusian border with Poland.

On the one hand, the Kremlin-backed dictator of Belarus is using thousands of increasingly desperate Middle East refugees and migrants as a political weapon against the European Union.

But within the EU, the crisis has raised questions about what its democratic values truly need of governments when it comes to welcoming – or not – those seeking refuge within their borders.

Why We Wrote This

President Biden’s contest between “autocracy and democracy” is playing out on the Belarus-Poland border. But European democracies are unprotected without a migration game plan.

The EU states are showing a united front in response to the challenge from Belarus. They are angry at the way in which its president, Alexander Lukashenko, has deliberately eased entry requirements for refugees and migrants from Iraq, Syria, and Yemen and directed them westward to the border with EU member-state Poland.

His aim seems to be to pressure the Europeans into removing the sanctions they’ve imposed since he won reelection last year in what international monitors deemed a rigged vote, which was followed by a violent crackdown on ensuing street protests.

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