‘Barbed wire curtain’ rises in Europe amid war in Ukraine – ActionNewsJax.com | Episode Movies

WARSAW, Poland – (AP) – The long border between Finland and Russia runs through thick forests and is marked only by wooden poles with low fences meant to deter stray cattle. A stronger, taller fence will soon be erected on parts of the border.

Earlier this month, Polish soldiers began laying rolls of barbed wire along the border with Kaliningrad, a Russian exclave wedged between Poland and Lithuania. Cameras and an electronic surveillance system will also be installed in the area, which used to be guarded only by occasional patrols by border guards.

The fall of the Berlin Wall more than 30 years ago symbolized hope for cooperation with Moscow. Now Russia’s war in Ukraine has heralded a new era of confrontation in Europe – and the rise of new barriers of steel, concrete and barbed wire. However, these are built by the West.

“The Iron Curtain is gone, but unfortunately the ‘Barbed Wire Curtain’ is now becoming a reality for much of Europe,” said Klaus Dodds, Professor of Geopolitics at Royal Holloway University of London. “The optimism that we had in Europe after 1989 has largely evaporated now.”

Fear and division have replaced euphoria as Germans danced on the Berlin Wall, breaking down sections of the barrier erected by communist leaders in 1961. It stretched 155 kilometers (nearly 100 miles) and circled West Berlin until 1989, when East German authorities opened the crossings after mass protests. East and West Germany were reunited within a year.

Some countries in the European Union began building border fences in response to more than 1 million refugees and other migrants who arrived in southern Europe from the Middle East and Africa in 2015 alone. In 2015 and 2016, Russia guided thousands of asylum seekers, also mostly from the Middle East, to border crossings in northern Finland.

As relations with Belarus soured after its authoritarian President Alexander Lukashenko was declared the winner of an election widely viewed as fraudulent, the Minsk government sent thousands of migrants across the EU’s borders in what Dodds called “hybrid warfare”. designated. In response, Poland and Lithuania built walls along their borders with Belarus.

Michal Baranowski, head of the Warsaw office of think tank German Marshal Fund, said most security analysts believe Belarus coordinated its efforts with Moscow “to destabilize our borders ahead of a war in Ukraine.”

Fearing another migration crisis in response to sanctions against Moscow over the nearly nine-month war in Ukraine, European leaders have begun tightening their borders.

Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin announced plans to fortify parts of her country’s 1,340-kilometer border – the longest of any EU member state. Moscow has threatened Finland and Sweden with “serious military-political consequences” for attempting to join NATO, and Marin said the fortifications would help defend the nation against the “hybrid threat” of possible large-scale and irregular migration, which orchestrated by the Kremlin.

The new barriers offer little protection from missiles or tanks. Instead, governments expect the walls, fences and electronic surveillance to allow better control of their borders and halt large flows of migrants.

Dodds says Russia has been arming migration for several years as it is locked in a “civilizational conflict with its European neighbors”.

Russia bombed and harassed Syria’s people in 2015 “in a deliberate attempt to create a humanitarian crisis,” he said.

“I think one of the difficulties we sometimes have outside of Russia is really appreciating how cynical, how calculating, how aware some of this work is,” said Dodds, author of The New Border Wars: The Conflicts that Will define our future.”

Russia’s use of migrants to create social discord in countries like Poland, Lithuania and Latvia has resulted in those governments denying them the opportunity to seek asylum and, in many cases, denying them entry – as has been the case in other European countries happened to countries like Greece and Hungary.

Those pushed back to Belarus were ill-treated by Belarusian guards who initially helped them cross the borders, according to human rights groups.

Human rights activists in Poland have protested the 5½-meter (18-foot) steel wall erected along 186 kilometers (115 miles) of its border with Belarus, arguing that it keeps out the weakest but not the most determined.

Anna Alboth of the Minority Rights Group has spent months at this border and said she saw people using ladders to scale the fence or tunnel below.

Since the wall was completed last summer, about 1,800 migrants who made it to Poland and found themselves in the forests in a desperate search for food, water or medicine have called Grupa Granica, an umbrella organization Alboth helped found.

“It’s a very difficult area, the east of Poland,” she said. “There are many animals. I had a situation where I walked up to a group and stepped on people who were semi-conscious. I am sure there were many such people.”

She said she recently met groups of women from Sudan who appear to have been victims of human trafficking, as well as medical students from Africa who were in their fifth year in Russia.

“They said ‘Russia is falling apart and we want to live in a normal country,'” Alboth said.

A Polish government security official, Stanislaw Zaryn, acknowledged that the border wall doesn’t stop everyone from crossing illegally, but added: “It allows our armed forces to act quickly and efficiently without deploying as many personnel as before.” got to. ”

Both this wall and the Kaliningrad fence “send a strong message to Minsk and Moscow that Poland takes the security and integrity of its borders extremely seriously,” Zaryn Migration said.

Dodds said he understands the impetus to build walls but warns they rarely work as intended and often push migrants on more dangerous journeys.

While militarized borders may be popular, they also tend to dehumanize desperate migrants, who are often willing to risk crossing the border for a better life.

Building walls and fences like this “siphons empathy and compassion from our society,” Dodds said.

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Jari Tanner contributed to this report from Helsinki.

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Follow AP’s coverage of the war in Ukraine at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine

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