Poland has raised the alarm over the presence of Wagner fighters on its border with Belarus, which it says is to “launch a hybrid attack” and “destabilize” it. But Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko claims that he is rather restraining the Wagnerites.
They have been itching to go into Poland to stop what Belarus and Russia allege are Warsaw’s “revanchist ambitions” to occupy western Ukraine and Belarus.
Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said at a press conference on July 29, “We have information that more than 100 Wagner mercenaries have advanced towards the Suwalki Gap, not far from Grodno in Belarus.” Wagner fighters had arrived in Belarus last month after their short-lived rebellion against Russia’s Ministry of Defense (RuMoD).
Polish Minister of National Defense, Mariusz Błaszczak, announced on July 27 a training academy for the High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) and mentioned its utility against Russia. It came a week after Putin promised to intervene against Poland if Minsk is threatened.
The US ambassador to the United Nations (UN) has meanwhile warned on Monday that any attack on NATO by Russia’s Wagner Group will be treated as an attack by Russia. Linda Thomas-Greenfield made the remarks while briefing reporters in New York.
Asked about the presence of Wagner forces on the Polish border, she said: “We certainly worry that this group, at the behest of the Russian government – because they do not work independently of the Russian government – is a threat to all of us.”
Poland Wields HIMARS To Deter Russia
Establishing the HIMARS Academy and the 1st Rocket Brigade at Toruń in the country’s north, Błaszczak announced that the center would also cooperate with Baltic states like Lithuania, Estonia, and Latvia, who too have ordered the weapon from the US. He then praised the capabilities of the Polish Army and the HIMARS platform, saying they could effectively deter Russia.
“Today, we saw the HIMARS in action, with a range of up to 300 km. The Polish Army can fire at long distances. Our task is to equip it with proven weapons that deter the aggressor, which will make Russia not dare to attack Poland. In the hands of Polish soldiers, trained both in the United States and Poland, it is a great weapon to deter the aggressor,” Błaszczak said at the training ground in Toruń.
Poland is in the middle of a massive armament buying spree, with the first of the 20 HIMARS launchers from the US, part of a $414 million deal from 2019, reaching the country in May this year. It has also inked a $13.7 billion arms deal with South Korea to buy Chunmoo rocket launchers, K2 main battle tanks, K9 self-propelled guns (SPG), and FA-50 fighter aircraft.
‘Poland Has Revanchist Ambitions’
But Russian officials rather claim that Poland envisages reacquiring what it believes are its historical territories. A meeting between Putin and Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko on July 23 and Putin’s meeting with his 11-member Security Council on July 21 saw Lukashenko and Russia’s Director of the Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR) Sergei Naryshkin touching upon Polish plans.
While Putin was non-committal on responding to a Polish intervention in western Ukraine, he, however, did promise to rush militarily to Belarus’s aid. The mobilization of Wagner fighters – now based in Belarus, to the Polish border can be seen in this context. This means the Wagner drills are a pre-emptive measure to deter Poland. Also, the Baltic nation of Lithuania has formed the ‘Lublin Triangle’ with Ukraine and Poland to execute the plan on western Ukraine, according to Naryshkin.
Lukashenko told Putin that “Wagner mercenaries have started getting on (his) nerves” and have been asking to be “allowed to go west…for an excursion to Warsaw and Rzeszow.” But he has managed to “hold” and “not redeploy them” despite “their low spirits” since they know “what is happening around the Union State.”
In the Security Council meeting, Naryshkin expanded on the Polish plan to Putin: “The Polish authorities are getting more intent on taking the western parts of Ukraine by deploying their troops there. There are plans to present this measure as the fulfillment of allied obligations within the Polish-Lithuanian-Ukrainian security initiative, the so-called Lublin Triangle.
“We see that plans also call for significantly increasing the number of personnel of the combined Lithuanian-Polish-Ukrainian brigade, which operates under the auspices of this so-called Lublin Triangle,” he said.
At the UN headquarters, Greenfield implied the country does not buy this reasoning saying, “We certainly worry that this group, at the behest of the Russian government – because they do not work independently of the Russian government – is a threat to all of us.”
She emphasized that the message should be clear that “any attack by the Wagner Group will be seen as an attack by the Russian government.”
Putin Will Defend Belarus, Not Sure About Ukraine
Naryshkin said the purpose was to cover up the imminent defeat of Ukraine. “Officials in Warsaw are…understanding that no kind of Western assistance to Kyiv can support Ukraine in reaching the goals…(and)…that Ukraine will be defeated in only a matter of time.”
Ukraine’s western frontiers were last redrawn after World War II when Poland agreed to part with the Eastern Galicia region and most of Volhynia to the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic (SSR). Warsaw was compensated by then Soviet Premier Joseph Stalin with land which had previously been part of Germany, most notably gaining the port city of Gdansk (Danzig) – a fact Putin said the Poles have “forgotten” and need to be “reminded of.”
Putin promised intervention if Belarus was targeted.
“It is none of our business if (the Ukrainian government wants) to relinquish or sell off something to pay their bosses, as traitors usually do. We will not interfere. But Belarus is part of the Union States, and launching aggression against Belarus would mean launching aggression against the Russian Federation. We will respond to that with all the resources,” Putin said during the SC video conference.
‘Ukraine Suffered Losses; Questions Asked’
Putin, too reasoned that the situation was brought about by Kyiv’s defeat and massive losses that have “disappointed its Western curators with the results of the counteroffensive” with the loss of “colossal resources” in tanks, artillery, armored vehicles, and missiles.
But the West cannot keep up with the supply owing to their poor “production capacities (that cannot) quickly replenish the consumption of equipment and ammunition.” This leads to questions being asked by citizens in both the Western countries and Ukraine, particularly, which has lost tens of thousands of citizens conscripted in several rounds of mobilizations.
Lukashenko touched upon the failing Ukrainian counteroffensive, with 26,000 men killed between June 4 to July 23 alone, losing 15 Leopard tanks and 20 Bradley fighting vehicles in a single battle, and how both Minsk and Moscow are facing the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).
He then pointed to a Polish military brigade 40 kilometers across the southwestern Belarusian border city of Brest, another Brigade just over 100 kilometers from Grodno.
Referring to Putin’s remarks at his SC meeting, Lukashenko said it was “unacceptable” to “tear off western Ukraine…and hand over these lands to Poland,” requesting Putin to consider “thinking through the issue” and “support the western population of Ukraine.”