Sky News’ Europe Correspondent Adam Parsons is reporting a worrisome huge escalation between the EU and Russia in the wake of the Belarus-Ryanair plane diversion and arrest of Roman Protasevich on Sunday. European carriers have been avoiding Belarusian airspace after widespread condemnation of what was dubbed “state hijacking” after Belarusian MiG fighters escorted the Lithuania-bound flight to Minsk where authorities grabbed the anti-Lushenko activist and his girlfriend based on prior charges.
Britain’s Sky News is now reporting that Russia is “stopping EU flights from entering Russian airspace – IF those airplanes have circumnavigated Belarusian airspace on the way.”
Russia is reportedly stopping EU flights from entering Russian airspace – IF those airplanes have circumnavigated Belarusian airspace on the way.
Bearing in mind the size of Russian airspace, and the position of Belarus – that's a significant move.
— Adam Parsons (@adamparsons) May 27, 2021
Parson’s follows by emphasizing, “Bearing in mind the size of Russian airspace, and the position of Belarus – that’s a significant move.”
This could mark the beginnings of a “battle” over crucial Eastern Europe and Baltic airspace and flight paths as more countries also ban airspace for Belavia flights (state airline of Belarus) in the wake of the Ryanair controversy and fallout, which has further put President Alexander Lukashenko back in the crosshairs of the West and expanding sanctions.
🇪🇸 Spain now telling Spanish operators and aircraft to avoid Belarus unless needed in an emergency. Also telling aircraft bound for Spain to avoid overflying Belarus. pic.twitter.com/9ADzCO1flF
— Flightradar24 (@flightradar24) May 27, 2021
All of this is set to potentially be economically devastating for both sides, and as it grows will most certainly severely disrupt international travel paths as more and more people take to the skies again after pandemic lockdowns.
Breaking: Russia has refused airspace access to Austrian Airlines because the airline would have avoided Belarus’ airspace on its scheduled Vienna-Moscow flight — the latest escalation in a rapidly developing aviation political row. #Belarus ⚠️ pic.twitter.com/EXGZjSyFjE
— Alex Macheras (@AlexInAir) May 27, 2021
By Tuesday, Belarusian airspace appeared almost empty…
Meanwhile, Rabobank notes of the significant shot across the EU’s bow…
…again we see the EU’s attempt to go on the front foot geopolitically has seen its ante upped, as happened with China and the now-frozen CAI deal. Russia may be implying if Belarus airspace is boycotted, it can prevent overflight of Russian airspace in sympathy: that used to be called ‘Workers of the World, Unite!’ until neoliberalism came along and took away all the (wage) inflation and threat of international conflict.
If so, the EU either has to back down, or face losing access to more than just Belarussian airspace (and, by the way, 90% of goods coming in to the EU from China via train also pass through Belarus). Or, the only logical strategic alternative would be for the EU to go on the offence and unilaterally cut off air travel to/over Belarus AND Russia, to encourage Moscow to force Minsk to change tactics.Yet when you base your economy on importing gas from Russia, and exporting luxury cars to Russia, one tends to go weak at the knees at the idea of such realpolitik. Which is why Germany will remain at the mercy of global pricing on chips, among other things, and the EU’s “open strategic autonomy” will be mainly just “open”.