A senior diplomat from a NATO member country said the North Atlantic military alliance plans to discuss ways to deter Russia at a summit next week.
Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis said Reuters in an interview published Wednesday that Russian President Vladimir Putin could use the Belarusian border crisis as a distraction from other actions to cause regional instability.
The border crisis involves thousands of migrants from the Middle East and Africa trying to enter European Union (EU) member countries that border Belarus like Poland, Latvia and Lithuania. As the New York Times reports, the crisis appears to be largely fabricated by authoritarian Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko as a means to destabilize the EU.
“Creating all this tactical instability on the border, forcing us all to pay attention to these issues 100%, Putin might be ready to make a strategic decision,” Landsbergis told Reuters, saying it was not clear whether Russia’s next move “would be military action against Ukraine … because in 2014 the scale was limited.”
“It is now very difficult to be certain of the impact and of their reflection,” he added after a meeting with US Under-Secretary of State Wendy Sherman.
At the same time as the crisis on the Belarusian border, the United States warned against “Unusual Russian military activity” near the Ukrainian border, raising fears that Russia is attempting to invade the country as it did when it annexed Crimea in 2014.
Russia has hit back at these claims, saying it is free to deploy its army within its borders as it wishes.
NATO, of which Russia is not a member, is due to meet next week in Riga, the capital of Latvia. According to Landsbergis, the topic of recent Russian military activity will likely drive much of this meeting.