BRUSSELS – The standoff between Poland and Belarus has been sending ripples across the Atlantic. The European Union has recalled its ambassador to Minsk, denounced “unacceptable” behavior from both countries, said it would discuss responses with Washington and threatened a “new dynamic” in its relations with Warsaw.
The dispute is being driven by Warsaw’s moves to secure international recognition of its claim to a Baltic Sea territory occupied by a now-defunct Soviet regime in 1945. But the matter has also coincided with a dispute between Belarus and three former Soviet states over other territory and diplomatic ties.
It also underscores fears that the EU’s enlargement initiative will end up undermining common ground with the Kremlin, which Western leaders see as a threat to sovereignty.
“If those countries want to join, then they have to accept the same standards that the EU has,” said Giorgos Papadimoulis, deputy head of the foreign affairs committee in the European Parliament. “The main goal of the Union’s enlargement program is to avoid one member state breaking away from the Union.”
The dispute centers on the disputed territory of Zemlya, a tiny cluster of islands in the Baltic Sea, which was occupied by the Soviets during World War II. Warsaw insists the territory remains part of Poland, while Minsk argues that the area is Ukrainian, although it has taken steps to purchase it.