Special Forces of Belarus (Source: Wikimedia Commons/Mil.ru)

An interview by Karol Glac with general of the Polish Army Roman Polko, commander and former general of the elite GROM unit

KAROL GAC: Mr. General, what is your assessment of the situation on the Polish-Belarussian border?

GEN. ROMAN POLKO: A war is what’s really going on. One can call it a hybrid one, using “green men” and “human weapons”, but the name we use is not important here, but the knowledge that even though there are no tanks to be seen on the border, the threshold of war has just passed. Of course, we can wait in the barracks for a “real”, textbook war which for the Alliance will trigger the application of Art. 5 of the NATO Treaty, but at that point we may suffer the fate of Ukraine, which in this “war-nonwar” lost Crimean and control over the Donbas region.

The aim of this war is to further destabilize Europe, which is already weak and overwhelmed with the coronavirus, raging inflation and energy security following drastic increases in prices of gas dictated by Russia. All of this serves to fulfill the ambitions of Putin, seeking to rebuild the former Soviet empire. The late president Lech Kaczynski warned about this in his memorable speech in Tbilisi, following the Russian aggression in Georgia. Event then, many considered this to be an exaggeration – what attack on Ukraine, what attack on Poland? Today, we already know what those attacks look like.

We are witnessing an unprecedented, historical situation. It is not the first time that migrants are being instrumentally used by various groups: terrorists, smugglers. Today these procedures have become institutionalized. Countries are organizers of smuggling, and Belarus is acting as an organized crime unit. This is not met with any sensible response at the international stage. The UN is appealing to Poland and Belarus, which in itself is ridiculous, in order to come to terms with the topic of migrants, to help them. This way the actions of both countries are being equated, instead of unanimously condemning what is transpiring and indicating the party responsible for creating the crisis. Questions are being raised about NATO, its reaction to the situation at hand. There has been a lot of talk recently about a psychological war, warfare through the use of information. It is time to transition away from debates and conferences and take action. The initiative that is being undertaken by Lukashenko is not being met with an adequate response, in fact it is quite ridiculous that we are dealing with friendly fire. Our soldiers and citizens living near the border are facing an extremely difficult situation and instead of support from the country and society, which should be the standard response, they are dealing with various attacks and slander.

The situation is incredibly dynamic, and the provocations keep going further and further. Where are we heading and where does the red line line?

Lukashenko is bringing over tens if not thousands of migrants on his territory, who he is planning on throwing across – along with green men and saboteurs – to the territory of the European Union. Fortunately, due to the determination of our rulers and forces, this operation has not unfolded in accordance with Lukashenko’s expectations. We’ve even arrived at a point where the migrants are starting to cause problems in Belarus. In effect, the Belarusian forces, in the spotlight, are trying to bring down our border. Unfortunately, the provocations of these forces are hitting fertile ground in Poland, since we have a fifth column that is attacking Polish soldiers and officers of the Border Guard. The Belarusian provocations are aimed at opening fire and casualties – if someone is reloading their weapon, the party on the receiving end must have nerves on steel in order to not answer with fire. After all, it is unknown if someone like that wants to kill you. The escalation can be seen, but this simultaneously shows determination as well as fear of Lukashenko that his strategy may turn against him. We are in a critical point but if we prevail and everyone will provide appropriate support to our border citizens and armies, then we will be able to stop this.

What is your assessment of the current actions of the government, including instituting the state of emergency?

It is not often that one can say that we haven’t run out of imagination. When the appeals to let these people in first came, the government did not in fact lack imagination. After all, when the state of emergency was being instituted, voices emerged that nothing significant is going on. Today, we can clearly see what is going on at the border and that it is a state of emergency. Even the biggest critics of the current government do not have any doubt about this. What our government has done, and what we all should do, is to support our troops and the Border Guard, who are on the frontline. They are worthy of applause and not criticism and insults.

How should we assess the actions of those politicians and celebrities who not only attacked but also slandered soldiers and officers of the Border Guard?

When I hear words like that from the mouths of people who have never dealt with national security and strategy, and who are emotionally fragile, in a way I may even be able to justify their actions. An actor does not have to be familiar with such matters. But when these voices come from politicians, strategists, and even two generals who participated in military operations and know perfectly well what role psychology plays in such actions, it is hard for me to find appropriate words to describe this. It is a complete absence of responsibility.

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The full version of this interview was published in November 2021 in “Do Rzeczy” magazine.