Will Belarus Really Join Russia’s War In Ukraine In 2023?

Состоялся двухдневный визит Владимира Путина в Белоруссию
Image by Presidential Press and Information Office

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Concerns are rising in Ukraine that Russia could use Belarusian territory to reinvade the war-torn country. Although Russian and Belarusian troops are still not ready for any major offensives, it is not improbable that in 2023 the Kremlin may decide to launch another suicide mission in an attempt to capture certain portions of northern Ukraine.

Kyiv has already started tightening up the defense of Ukraine’s border with Belarus. Such a move could be interpreted as Ukraine’s response to joint military exercises that Russian and Belarusian troops have been conducting for months. Indeed, Ukraine seems to be taking the situation on its northern borders seriously, even though there are no indications that Russia is preparing to attack its territory from Belarus.

Rumors are flying, however, that Russian President Vladimir Putin is trying to pressure the leader of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko into joining a possible new ground offensive in Ukraine. On December 19 Putin flew to Minsk for talks with his Belarusian counterpart – the first time in three-and-a-half years the pair have met in Belarus. It remains unclear if the two leaders discussed Moscow’s alleged ambitioun to reinvade Ukraine from southern Belarus, although Lukashenko’s statements suggest that such a topic might have been on the agenda.

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“Taking into account the situation evolving along the border perimeter, we discussed some important details of cooperation in the sphere of military security”, Belarusian President stressed, pointing out that Russia and Belarus are “greatly concerned about tensions along the border perimeter of the Union State, primarily in the west.”

Since Minsk claims that “paramilitary units are being trained in Poland and Lithuania in order to destabilize the situation in Belarus”, it is entirely possible that Russia has deployed troops and some weapons to Belarus, not to invade Ukraine, but in an attempt to prevent a potential uprising against Lukashenko. Given the Ukraine war has shown the Kremlin does not hesitate to use the Russian troops as cannon fodder, it is not improbable that Moscow will eventually attack northwestern Ukraine, allegedly aiming to cut off its supply lines – a move that, from the military perspective, would have made sense back in February. 

Belarus, for its part, is unlikely to join Putin’s military adventures. Although the former Soviet republic has not become involved in the war directly, it did allow Russian troops to use its territory to launch the invasion in February. Lukashenko, unlike Putin, does not seem to be ready to sacrifice his own troops and deploy them to Ukraine to die in vain. Despite alleged leverage the Russian leader has over the Belarusian President, to this day the two allied countries have not formed a joint military command, nor did Belarus deepen its integrations into the Russia Union State. Lukashenko seems to have preserved a significant level of autonomy when it comes to his relations with the Kremlin, which suggests that Moscow cannot easily force him to directly participate in the Ukraine war. But why did Putin travel to Minsk then?

Everything about Putin is a PR stunt. If he really planned to reinvade Ukraine from Belarus, he would have invited Lukashenko to Moscow, Sochi, or elsewhere in Russia. His visit to Minsk was most likely a message to the Russian audience that Russia is not on its own, and that it can always count on Belarus’ support. But can it really?

The fact that prior to Putin’s trip to Belarus, Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu also visited Minsk where he met not only with his Belarusian counterpart Viktor Khrenin, but also with Lukashenko, indicates the two countries plan to increase their military cooperation. The Russian and Belarusian armies continue holding joint battalion-level drills in Belarus, and Russia has reportedly provided its ally with the S-400 air defense systems and Iskander missiles. Although Moscow and Minsk seem to be preparing for an escalation of the Ukraine conflict, that does not necessarily mean that Belarusian troops will get directly involved in Putin’s so-called special military operation.

With only 9,000 troops in Belarus, Russia can seize some villages in northern Ukraine – and suffer huge losses – but nothing more than that. At this point, neither Russia nor Belarus have capacity for any large-scale offensives. Thus, their military maneuvers could also be part of Moscow’s strategy to tie up Ukrainian forces near the border to prevent their deployment to the Donbass or to the south. 

Finally, given that events have clearly accelerated over the last few weeks, an escalation of the Ukraine war in 2023 – with Belarus’ indirect involvement – should not be ruled out.

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1 comment

Htos1av December 22, 2022 at 9:19 am

I hope the world understands that the American do NOT support any of this, and hope to start hanging ,many politicians in the very near future.


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