Ukrainian ambassador on migrant crisis: For every hybrid attack there should be an asymmetric response


The ongoing migrant crisis at the Belarusian border with the EU isn’t so much a crisis as it’s a hybrid attack that is part of a long series of such actions, and for every attack there should be an asymmetric response, thinks Marko Shevchenko, Ukraine’s ambassador to Moldova.

During a debate organized by IPN on this subject, the diplomat said he personally doesn’t see a solution that would be one hundred percent successful. And this is because, says he, the problem is extremely complex: the episode with the Middle East migrants brought to the EU border seems to be part of an older scenario with a long-term goal, and those responsible for the hybrid attacks remain largely unpunished.

“I do agree that we should improve border management, have functional states and so on. But I’d like to remind you that we are now facing hybrid attacks of the kind invented, at least their theoretical part, back in 2010. Those who invented them are still active (and they) are always one step ahead”, says the Ukrainian ambassador, referring to the hybrid warfare doctrine attributed to Valery Gerasimov, the chief of staff of the Russian armed forces.

“Currently, symmetrical solutions are being sought, with targeted sanctions, for example, against those who transported migrants. But they do not affect the organizers in any way. That’s the problem. The organizers remain unpunished, they do not pay for this hybrid aggression. And that is why I think that after this crisis is dealt with, others will follow. Better designed and better prepared”, says Marko Shevchenko.

Therefore, in order to break this chain, the diplomat thinks that “for every attack there should be an asymmetric response”. “We know that each hybrid attack costs money and therefore (…) such asymmetric responses should first of all target their finances”.

The Ukrainian ambassador also noted that the current migrant crisis differs from others in that it has “a visible involvement of official or semi-official agencies of Belarus.” As other speakers pointed out in the debate, there is ample evidence that migrants are being deliberately lured to Belarus, for significant fees, to put pressure on the European Union.

The purpose? Marko Shevcenko says the migrant crisis of 2015 suggests an answer. Back then, against the backdrop of the crisis, the popularity of far-right forces rose sharply and the unity of the EU countries on migrant-related issues was affected. “Who can vouch this won’t happen again?”, the ambassador asked rhetorically.

At the same time, Marko Shevchenko is sure that the problem of migrants at the Belarusian border is not the last in this series. Being one of the first countries to face hybrid attacks, Ukraine is preparing for such situations. According to the diplomat, such attacks have multiple targets, which can be changed quite easily depending on the resistance that the country in question may put up. Specifically on the issue of migrants, Marko Shevchenko says that the flows of migrants can be redirected quite easily and even more people can be attracted, not necessarily through Minsk. The Ukrainian airports and, why not, the one in Chisinau can serve as transit points, the diplomat believes.

Of those who orchestrate such hybrid attacks, the diplomat says that “for them international law and their own legislation mean nothing”. This is why countries with European aspirations, such as Ukraine and Moldova, should do their homework and consolidate the rule of law and look for solutions to respond to such challenges, concluded Ambassador Shevchenko.

The debate titled “The Belarus migrant crisis” was the 214th installment of the “Developing Political Culture” Series, an IPN project implemented with the support of the Hanns Seidel Foundation.