This article was originally published by Tyler Durden at ZeroHedge.
NATO members Poland says it is building up troops along its border with Belarus following allegations that two Belarusian helicopters violated Poland’s airspace on Tuesday.
Poland’s Ministry of Defence made the allegation, which Minsk quickly denied. “There was a violation of Polish airspace by two Belarusian helicopters that were training near the border,” Poland’s military said. Further, Warsaw says it has formally notified NATO of the alleged border violation, setting the stage for possible Article 5 discussion, and portending future escalation.
The Belarusian Defense Ministry immediately denied Poland’s charge, suggesting that it was a “far-fetched” provocation meant to justify a build-up of NATO forces near Belarus.
“Accusations of a violation of the Polish border by Mi-24 and Mi-8 helicopters of the Belarusian Air Force and air defense forces are farfetched and made by the Polish military and political leadership to justify the build-up of forces and means at the Belarusian border,” the ministry said.
The Associated Press describes that there were witnesses (and video) to helicopters being operational along the border as part of training exercises this week:
Earlier Tuesday, Polish residents in an area near the border with Belarus reported seeing helicopters with Belarusian insignia which they said flew overhead. Some posted photos of the aircraft. Poland’s military initially denied that they had crossed into Polish airspace.
What’s more is that Belarus informed its NATO neighbor it would be conducting drills in a border region, so that there would be no misunderstanding between the rival countries which recently have had disputes over migrant crossings.
Belarusian helicopters violated Poland's airspace during military exercises. Belarus informed Poland beforehand. Low-altitude crossing made detection difficult. Polish Defense Minister ordered increased troops and resources, informed NATO, and summoned Belarus's chargé… pic.twitter.com/WWn29wBqAz
— 301 Military (@301military) August 1, 2023
Polish Defense Minister Mariusz Błaszczak announced a troop increase at the border, also bolstering a prior presence of elite counterterror police deployed in extra units last month in relation to the Wagner mutiny in Russia and their subsequently moving into Belarus. He said combat helicopters are also being moved for border defense and other military assets.
As for NATO jitters over the closer Wagner presence in Eastern Europe, Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki had announced Saturday that over 100 Wagner mercenaries had approached Poland’s Suwalki Gap, considered a sensitive and strategic border area.
PM Morawiecki had gone so far as to claim PMC Wagner fighters “may try infiltrating Poland”—though there was no evidence of any hostile action by Wagner or border breaches.
The tension between Belarus and Poland is a real flashpoint to keep your eyes on. Poland is obviously NATO and Putin says an attack on Belarus is an attack on Russia. You can see how things could go sideways quickly. https://t.co/44B5A7Ho0i
— Max Abrahms (@MaxAbrahms) July 29, 2023
But Poland is still making a lot of noise about the alleged ‘training exercise’ helicopter border breach incident. The chargé d’affaires of Belarus in Warsaw was “immediately summoned” by Poland’s Foreign Ministry on Tuesday, and it “issued a firm protest and called on the Belarusian side to immediately and in detail explain the incident.”
“The Polish side emphasized that the incident is perceived as another element of the escalation of tension on the Polish-Belarusian border. Poland expects Belarus to refrain from such activities,” the ministry said. Interestingly, it’s been the Russia-Belarus side (or ‘Union State’) that has long charged NATO powers with escalating the situation. This indeed could very well be the next major flashpoint connected with the Ukraine war.