A top diplomat for a NATO member country says the North Atlantic military alliance plans to discuss ways to deter Russia during a summit next week.
Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis told Reuters in an interview published Wednesday that Russian President Vladimir Putin may be using the Belarus border crisis as a distraction from other actions to cause regional instability.
The crisis at the border involves thousands of migrants from the Middle East and Africa attempting to cross into European Union (EU) member countries that border Belarus such as Poland, Latvia and Lithuania. As The New York Times reported, the crisis appears to be largely manufactured by Belarus’s authoritarian president, Alexander Lukashenko, as a way to unsettle the EU.
“Creating all those tactical instabilities on the border, having us all paying 100 percent attention to these issues, Putin might be ready to make a strategic move,” Landsbergis told Reuters, saying it was unclear if Russia’s next move “would be a military action against Ukraine … because in 2014 the scale was limited.”
“It’s very difficult now to be certain of the impact and their thinking,” he added following a meeting with U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman.
At the same time as the Belarus border crisis, the U.S. has warned of “unusual Russian military activity” near the border of Ukraine, sparking concerns that Russia may attempt to invade the country like it did when it annexed Crimea in 2014.
Russia has shot back at these claims, saying it is free to deploy its military within its borders however it wishes.
NATO, which Russia is not a member of, is set to meet next week in Latvia’s capital city of Riga. According to Landsbergis, the topic of Russia’s recent military activity will likely command much of this meeting.