National-level hijacking in Belarus has far-reaching implications

Belarus forced a MiG-29 fighter jet to land a Ryanair flight FR 4978 from Athens, Greece, to Vilnius, Lithuania, while passing through Belarusian airspace under the pretext of a “bomb threat”. When the plane landed at the airport in the Belarusian capital Minsk, the authorities arrested Roman Protasevich, a 26-year-old exiled Polish opposition activist.

After the landing, of course, no bombs were found on the plane, and most of the passengers were released to continue their flight. The Lithuanian president even said that the Belarusian regime has posed a threat to international civil aviation and will discuss the request for NATO and EU intervention at the EU summit in Brussels; while the British and French foreign ministers also stated that the EU and relevant countries should make a strong and consistent response.

As a landlocked country, the territory of Belarus is surrounded by several countries; except for Russia in the east and Ukraine in the south, the rest are surrounded by EU countries, including Poland in the west, Lithuania in the northwest and Latvia in the north; since Ukraine is almost in tune with the EU countries due to the war with Russia over the eastern territories, if the EU countries decide to block the airspace in retaliation Therefore, if the EU countries decide to block the airspace in retaliation, all the external traffic of Belarus will be left only by the Russian route, even if they have to fly around the Arctic route or the Mediterranean Sea in order to fly westward; therefore, for the EU, the problem is not whether there is a way to sanction, but to what extent it can be done.

For the EU, will sanctions against Belarus lead to retaliation from countries that support Belarus – such as Russia? This may be a reason to restrain the EU; however, if the EU’s countermeasures are too weak, it may cause another problem – will other countries follow the practice of Belarus and send warplanes to hijack civil aircraft with their own government’s hated targets in the future? However, if the country doing this is a country with a large territory such as Russia or China, it will certainly have a serious impact on international aviation and, more importantly, on the economy, which is currently affected by the epidemic.

For example, Wang Jingyu, a 19-year-old Chongqing man wanted by the Chinese Communist Party for questioning the Chinese government’s official account of the death toll of soldiers killed on the Sino-Indian border, was arrested by police in the United Arab Emirates on April 6 while on a connecting flight to New York in Dubai, and was extradited to China for trial. According to the person concerned, the UAE authorities first accused him of “insulting their religious culture” a few years ago, and then suddenly said that the complainant “withdrew the accusation”, but just to extradite him back to China to stand trial; if the number of people killed or injured can also be questioned, it is possible to go to great lengths to catch him. If it is possible to go to the trouble of arresting the number of dead and wounded, will it be more serious to send warplanes to crash land a civilian plane carrying dissidents in the future?

Therefore, if the “Belarus model” can be sanctioned only slightly, and if all countries follow the example of Belarus in the future, sending warplanes to intercept civil aircraft at every turn, force landing them and then arresting the thorn in the side of their governments or dissidents, then the international aviation order will definitely be in chaos, and civil aircraft may even be crashed or shot down due to miscommunication or misunderstanding. As European leaders say, this is “national terrorism” and must be borne in mind.