General Carter reveals he is worried about tensions on Belarus border escalating

·3-min read
Belarusian servicemen set a tent for migrants gathering at the Belarus-Poland border near Grodno, Belarus (Leonid Shcheglov/BelTA pool photo via AP) (AP)
Belarusian servicemen set a tent for migrants gathering at the Belarus-Poland border near Grodno, Belarus (Leonid Shcheglov/BelTA pool photo via AP) (AP)

The Chief of Defence staff has admitted he is worried about the situation on the border between Belarus and Poland after Britain sent in armed forces to “show unity” with Warsaw.

General Sir Nick Carter said migrants were being pushed by Minsk “on to European Union borders” to try and destabilise the region, in a scenario he described as being straight out of the “Russian playbook”.

A large number of migrants, many from the Middle East, are in a makeshift camp on the Belarusian side of the border, with Polish authorities daily reporting new attempts by the migrants to breach the divide.

What it shows is our unity with Poland and the fact we stand beside Poland against these sorts of threats

General Sir Nick Carter

The Belarusian defence ministry has accused Poland of an “unprecedented” military build-up on the border, saying migration control did not warrant the concentration of 15,000 troops backed by tanks, air defence assets and other weapons.

Sir Nick, asked on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show whether he was worried that the situation could quickly escalate into “something really serious”, replied: “Yes, I think I am.

“I think this is a classic case of the sort of hybrid playbook where you link disinformation to destabilisation and the idea of pushing migrants on to the European Union’s borders is a classic example of that sort of thing.”

The Ministry of Defence announced on Friday that it would be sending in a small team of British armed forces personnel into Poland to provide “engineering support”.

Chief of the Defence Staff General Sir Nick Carter (Andrew Matthews/PA) (PA Archive)
Chief of the Defence Staff General Sir Nick Carter (Andrew Matthews/PA) (PA Archive)

Sir Nick stressed that those being sent are there to help to build fences along the border, rather than fighting forces.

“What it shows is our unity with Poland and the fact we stand beside Poland against these sorts of threats,” he added.

It comes as Foreign Secretary Liz Truss urged Russia’s President Vladimir Putin to intervene in the “shameful manufactured migrant crisis” unfolding in eastern Europe.

Writing in The Sunday Telegraph, Liz Truss said Moscow had a “clear responsibility” to end the escalating migrant stand-off, adding the UK “will not look away”.

Russia and Belarus have a union agreement envisaging close political and military ties.

The EU has accused Belarus’ authoritarian president, Alexander Lukashenko, of encouraging illegal border crossings as an attack to retaliate against the bloc’s sanctions on his government for its crackdown on domestic protests after his disputed 2020 re-election.

Foreign Secretary Liz Truss (Victoria Jones/PA) (PA Wire)
Foreign Secretary Liz Truss (Victoria Jones/PA) (PA Wire)

Belarus denies the allegations but says it will no longer stop refugees and migrants from trying to enter the EU, in a move that has seen Syrian, Libyan and other migrants head to the region in the hope of slipping through.

Ms Truss said the stand-off “marks the latest step by the Lukashenko regime to undermine regional security”.

“He is using desperate migrants as pawns in his bid to create instability and cling on to power, regardless of the human cost,” she wrote.

“The United Kingdom will not look away. We will stand with our allies in the region, who are on the frontier of freedom.”

The outgoing head of the armed forces said he could not predict whether the situation would turn into a “shooting war” but stressed that the UK and Nato “have to be on our guard”.

Sir Nick described the Belarussian tension and trouble around Ukraine as a “classic example of a bit of distraction”.

“If you look at the Russian playbook over the years, the idea of Maskirovka, as they call it – this sort of theatre that they apply to it – it’s pretty typical of some stuff that’s been going on for years and years and years,” he told the BBC.

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