Hybrid Warfare between Poland and Belarus

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A “hybrid war” on the border between Poland and Belarus is becoming more complex each day. Belarussian political leadership is accused of transporting civilians from primarily Middle Eastern countries based on false promises they would reach wealthy European Union countries soon after they land in Minsk. Instead, migrants, including women and children, are stuck at the Polish border. And Warsaw has already deployed the army to monitor the situation. Thus, EU officials believe that Belarus is using migrants and propaganda as pawns in a game of hybrid warfare against the EU, as a sign of retribution after this close Russian ally was sanctioned on 1 October 2020.

While the European Union discusses a new set of sanctions against Belarus, no solution is in sight. In a hybrid war, any activity or resource can be weaponized, and many experts believe that Russia has perfected its methods. As they claim, Russia is using Belarus as a proxy in this hybrid warfare, mounting pressure on the Baltic countries and Poland as migrants grow restless. Western intelligence notes that this is one more example of Russian pressure, with an aim to win certain political concessions for Belarus and itself. For other experts, this might be just a diversion needed for the renewal of the Ukraine crisis.

Whatever it may be, the role of technology in hybrid warfare is undeniable. Most hybrid war models rely on cyber-weapons and information campaigns, and the situation on the Polish-Belarus border certainly cannot be the exception. To better understand why technology plays such an important role in hybrid warfare, it is important to note that the human psyche is the weakest link in tech adoption. This was illustrated during the 2019 controversy when NATO soldiers, during a military training, used various purposely created social media apps that extract the geolocation of their users. The soldiers also conversed with fake profiles on Tinder, sharing sensitive and confidential information without being aware that the Latvian military created those portals and profiles to diagnose cyber vulnerabilities in the NATO ranks. If the similar behavior of NATO soldiers is displayed in the migrant crisis on Polish borders, the damage could be severe.

Even without such safety risks, sophisticated spyware has been on the rise, especially after Pegasus, a spyware used to infect any smartphone and remain undetectable, became widely known. Despite Russia not being on the list of countries using Pegasus, it is no secret that the country has developed similar tracking algorithms that could reveal sensitive information. Thus, Belarus or the Russian military could know the most critical elements of NATO strategy and successfully anticipate its moves. The outcome of this crisis is yet to be witnessed but it is undeniable that sophisticated technology is at the forefront of any hybrid warfare.