Morawiecki, the Polish prime minister, has been talking about "a new kind of war" for days. The Baltic governments speak of "the biggest security threat in the last 30 years." EU Council President Michel calls the arrival of a few hundred migrants a "brutal, hybrid, violent and undignified attack." And the most enthusiastic European press echoes him today: "We are facing a hybrid attack from a clearly hostile neighbor" editorialized El País. But are we really facing a "hybrid war" action? Are a few hundred refugees a threat? To whom?
What is a "hybrid attack"?
Russian troops dressed in unmarked uniforms occupy Crimea's main cities and communication routes. This is the most characteristic example of a hybrid attack.
A hybrid attack is a military operation combining forms of conventional warfare - often in the form of unflagged or mercenary units - with cyberwarfare and political destabilization in order to facilitate the invasion of a territory. Typical examples of hybrid attack are the Bay of Pigs landings in 1961 and the never-acknowledged invasion of Crimea by Russia in 2014.
Can the arrival of 5,000 refugees and migrants in the no-man's-land between Poland and Belarus be qualified as a "hybrid attack?"
Refugee crisis. Refugees attacked in front of the fence in Grodno, Belarus border with Poland.
Neither Poland nor the EU are afraid of an invasion, neither by the corrupt and incompetent Belarusian army nor by Russian mercenary forces. NATO has not reported any significant troop movements near the border. There are only gendarmes and they are engaged in beating the refugees and migrants they hauled into no man's land so that they do not attempt to return to Belarus.
It can't be called an internal destabilization operation either.
The most brutal nationalism dominates the Polish parliament, the consensus of the parties is almost total and only one NGO has protested against Poland not allowing asylum seekers to apply for asylum at the border. If we take into account that the same NGO has legally denounced Belarus before the International Criminal Court for not allowing refugees to re-enter its soil, it is clear that even Lukashenko at his worst would not think that sending refugees to a Visegrad country could do anything but inflame the xenophobic discourse of the political forces in power.
Can this be the prologue of a massive and continuous arrival of migrants and refugees?
If Russia and Belarus were thinking of a hybrid attack, they chose the most expensive and unsustainable way to do it.
No. The economic cost and organizational size of an operation like the one carried out by Belarus and Russia is very high. Unsustainable for both states. Hence the long period of preparation and movement of people: almost two months. And also how modest the figures are. To offer a contrast, 5,000 refugees cross every day from Afghanistan to Iran.
Isn't this the same thing that happened in Ceuta last May?
Ceuta is not experiencing any migratory crisis
In the political aspect and its imperialist dimension, yes. The Moroccan government then organized a border crossing at Ceuta of similar dimensions. Like Belarus now at the Polish border, the Makhzen was not conducting a war action, it intended merely to make a gesture of its ability to saturate the borders as a form of pressure on the Spanish government... which let it pass and feigned insanity in the face of the provocation.
But the differences are also important: the Moroccan government mobilized unemployed, young people and children for the operation, it did not channel a real migratory pressure. And what is more important: the migrants entered Spanish territory, they were not left at the mercy of a freezing cold for days.
Read also: Ceuta is not experiencing any migration crisis, 5/18/2021
Why do they call the arrival of 5,000 refugees and migrants a "hybrid attack"?"
The humanitarian and migration crisis we are experiencing on the Polish-Belarusian border is only such because migrants are not cared for but forced to stay in an icy no-man's land while the EU and Russia play one more moment of their own imperialist contest.
Poland, its neighbors, the EU and NATO have decided to fully play the Russian and Belarusian provocation. Instead of letting the asylum seekers pass through and initiating the process they are bound to by law and international treaties, they have militarized the border and repressed any attempt to reach Polish soil and make a formal request.
Calling the arrival of refugees and migrants a "hybrid attack" is the way to tell Putin that they take the bait and make invisible the main issue: the humanitarian situation of 5,000 people and the hypocrisy of an EU that claims - and has legally established as part of its famous "rule of law" - the right of asylum.
As seen by European, Belarusian and Russian leaders this is just a game. Refugees are the stake and time is limited. As winter sets in and temperatures drop the freezing deaths will increase. The first one to open the border loses; but if one does not open their border and the opposing propaganda apparatus manages to portray them as globally guilty, they win.
Let's put it even more bluntly: The humanitarian and migration crisis we are experiencing on the Polish-Belarusian border is only such because the migrants are neither taken care of by Poland nor readmitted by Belarus, but forced to stay in an icy no-man's land while the EU and Russia play one more hand of their own imperialist contest.
Is Germany no different?
It is true that some relevant voices in the German SPD have pointed out that what Poland is doing is illegal from any point of view and Merkel herself has sought to open a negotiated way with Putin. But let's not fool ourselves, that is the ideological cover of this moment of the game between Russia and Germany, nothing more. Germany has been the first to ignore the crimes committed in collusion with Frontex at various European borders denounced by the European Parliament itself.
At the heart of this pulse is still the implementation of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, as is Russia's speculative gas game which, using the European Green Deal, is putting pressure on Germany and its agreements with the US.
Putin is once again emphasizing the value of Russian supplies by pouting, reminding that until the pipeline is operational nothing much will happen and sending Merkel to talk to Lukashenko. The possibility of increasing gas dividends is worth much more to him and to the Russian regime and the Russian capital he represents than the lives of a few thousand refugees.
Poland for its part, which has always opposed further German dependence on Russia, ratchets up the tension by punching Berlin right in Moscow's face. If it gets its way and the opening of NordS tream 2 is further delayed, Poland will be the gateway for U.S. gas to Germany.
What can we workers glean about the "rule-of-law" and the morality of states?
Polish soldiers respond to alleged Belarusian "hybrid attack" by cracking down on refugees
But about the EU, the main lesson we workers can take away from all this is no more reassuring.
How quickly the sacrosanct "rule of law" is cast aside at the slightest image battle between imperialist interests becomes clear. Right of asylum, law enforcement, democracy and other ideological coverages of the EU and its states fade away and become nothing in order to win a minor battle. And the same can be said of the whole European discourse on "the vulnerable" and "human rights."
There is no "hybrid attack" and no "security risk for Europe" going on. There are 5,000 refugees and migrants in the cold, suffering inhumane conditions. More than a dozen have already frozen to death. To the moral system of the European ruling class their lives are worth less than the cost of organizing a few bureaucratic posts and the corresponding distribution of asylum seekers.
Let us not forget this when we are promised "protection for the most vulnerable" and that "no one is going to be left behind". The policy with migrants and refugees is the model of what the ruling class reserves for the "legally resident" working class... if we don't stand up to them.