Date of Award

Spring 5-21-2022

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts (BA)


Olena Nikolayenko, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Caley Johnson, Ph.D.


In recent years, a debate has arisen about a controversial method of warfare – refugees and migrants who are exploited in multi-dimensional conflicts and humanitarian crises by state actors. The notion of ‘weapons of mass migration’, or a deliberate use of refugees and migrants as leverage against other nation-states, became one of the most prominent yet underappreciated theories in academic literature. But who actually availed themselves of the “weapons of mass migration” during the European migrant crisis, and how does migration fit into the realm of international relations today? My thesis aims to provide a detailed examination of the alleged weaponization of refugees and migrants practiced by Russia and Belarus during the 2015-16 European migrant crisis and the 2021-22 Belarus-European Union border crisis, respectively. The main factors analyzed include 1) the historical background of Russia and Belarus relations with the European Union (EU); 2) the different types of measures that the Russian and Belarusian government both relied on when weaponizing refugees and migrants; 3) to what extent did the “weapons of mass migration” affect the political developments in Europe; and 4) how successful Russia and Belarus were in doing so. In analyzing these factors, the paper concludes that ‘weapons of mass migration’ do exist. As in the case studies, migrants and refugees were created, manipulated, and exploited by these two regimes.