Since the beginning of the war, there has been speculation as to whether Belarus would join the Russian attack and invade Ukraine. There are some arguments in favor of Lukashenko’s entry into the war – but there are also some arguments against it. Will Belarus become an active war party – or will Belarus continue to act as a shadow player for Russia? An overview.
While the Russian armed forces are massively attacking the Donbass, Ukraine fears that neighboring Belarus will enter the war. It was only on Monday that Moscow and Minsk began joint air force exercises – fueling Ukraine’s fears. There is also growing concern that Russian forces are once again invading northern Ukraine from Belarus and targeting Kyiv again.
Since the beginning of the Russian war of aggression, there has been speculation as to whether Lukashenko would join Russia and attack the neighboring country. It is questionable whether this scenario could materialize or whether Russian forces in Belarus will attack northern Ukraine. FOCUS online gives you an overview of the pros and cons.
On Monday this week, Russia and Belarus launched joint air force maneuvers. Because: Belarus and Russia now have a joint military unit, which Lukashenko announced last October. He founded the joint “regional combat group” with an alleged provocation by NATO and the alleged threat from Ukraine, which according to Lukashenko are planning an attack on Belarus. Putin struck a similar note last year before his troops invaded Ukraine.
The agreed joint military unit is now giving Russia an official pretext to send thousands of soldiers, military equipment and combat aircraft to Belarus. Western military historians are also registering increasing deliveries of Russian war equipment and personnel to Belarus. Even the Belarusian defense minister said he was expecting up to 9,000 Russian soldiers.
The Belarusian opposition politician Pawel Latuschka, who lives in exile, also reports that the Russian military presence in his own country is steadily growing – whether in terms of personnel or military equipment. It remains questionable whether this is actually just an exercise, as Lukashenko emphasized, or whether Russia will invade northern Ukraine again from Belarus – if not even the “regional combat group” moves together towards Kyiv.
The Belarusian opposition politician Pavel Latuschka, who lives in exile in Warsaw, warned earlier this year that Lukashenko could intervene in the Ukraine war alongside the Kremlin chief. There are indications of this, he reveals to the “RedaktionsNetzwerk Deutschland”. Because: “The census of all conscripts in Belarus is practically complete,” explains Latuschka. Therefore, Lukashenko only had to get the order from Putin and could start mobilizing directly.
According to the exiled Belarusian’s Minsk sources, all employees of the Belarusian Interior Ministry were asked to surrender their passports. According to Latuschka, this would prevent them from escaping in the event of war.
The fact that Lukashenko’s papers have been checked by his own conscripts in recent months also speaks in favor of a Belarusian mobilization. On Telegram, the Belarusian Ministry of Defense defended this approach rather cryptically: “This work made it possible to clarify among citizens the information necessary in connection with the emerging politico-military situation.”
Apart from the conscripts, mercenary troops have also been forming in Belarus since last summer, which are modeled on the Wagner group – and are also trained by some Wagner mercenaries. It is uncertain whether Lukashenko wants to model his war power on the Russian model in this way – or whether he wants to circumvent Putin’s alleged desire to join the war directly.
Read more here: Belarus creates its own version of the Wagner Group – with Putin’s money
During the massive rocket attack last Saturday, the Ukrainian military also registered attacks from the north. The missiles may have been launched again on Belarusian territory. Because: None of the rockets could be located or destroyed. That is why the air alert in Kyiv was only used with a delay. The Ukrainian military has been warning of Belarusian entry into the war since the beginning of the war, and not without reason: during the war there were repeated airstrikes launched in Belarus.
Although Lukashenko has often assured Belarus would not invade Ukraine, the dictator nods to any Russian intervention on his soil. Almost a year into the war, both the Ukrainian military and independent experts are reporting that Belarus is a hub of Russian war maneuvers.
Because: The Russian Air Force flies from Belarus and spies on Ukraine. Thanks to Lukashenko, Belarus acts as a hub for Russian military supplies or as a retreat for wounded Russians. Belarus also played a role in the failed march on Kyiv. The very long military column formed from the Russian armed forces, which were stationed in Belarus.
This is also supported by the fact that newly recruited Russian soldiers are trained in Belarus and prepared for deployment in Ukraine in order to relieve Russian training capacities. British intelligence reports. Given the first wave of mobilizations, this seems more than likely as there were increasing reports that Russia was not sufficiently prepared for the first mobilization.
The fact is that the Belarusian ruler Lukashenko has so far officially ruled out using his own armed forces in the Russian war of aggression in Ukraine. According to the Belta agency, he told Russian journalists last November. In his opinion, active intervention is “not necessary” and would only make things worse. Belarus may be acting in the shadow of the war, supporting the Russian army – and thus not attracting further western sanctions.
For Lukashenko, entering the war and mobilizing would mean a high risk in his own country. Since the protests in August 2020 in his own country, the head of state has only held power with Putin’s help. With a mobilization he would risk renewed domestic unrest.
The professor of political science, Gerhard Mangott, also considers a Belarusian entry into the war to be unlikely. Mangott writes on FOCUS online that an “overwhelming majority of the Belarusian population rejects entering the war”. In addition, there are also objections and resistance to joining the war in the ranks of the soldiers and in the Belarusian general staff.
Mangott also believes that the domestic political risk is too great, but Russia is also aware of it. He writes: “Observers who believe Belarus is entering the war object that the Belarusian leadership has to give in to Russian pressure because Lukashenko can only stay in power with economic, financial and military support from Russia. So Lukashenko has no other choice.”
The political expert also explains: “However, this position neglects the fact that the Russian leadership also knows about the domestic political risks in Belarus. Another mass uprising would also be difficult for Russia to control. However, losing control of Belarus is a much greater risk for Russia than not allowing Belarus to enter the war directly.”
Read the entire article here: Why Lukashenko can’t afford to go to war
However, for Belarus to join the war of aggression in Ukraine itself, Lukashenko would need to mobilize. According to Western military experts, Lukashenko currently does not have enough soldiers – which makes it unlikely that he will join the war anytime soon. The “Institute for the Study of War” also considers the risk to be very unlikely. On paper, the country has more than 45,000 soldiers, but only 15,000 of them are combat-ready. This is nothing compared to the 300,000 Russians that Moscow has recruited and could recruit again.
Another argument against a purely Russian attack from Belarus is that, according to the ISW, there are currently almost 13,000 Russian soldiers in Belarus. However, there are also reports that up to 50,000 Russians are said to be in Belarus. In a TV interview, Ukrainian military expert Mykhailo Samus explained that these were not enough to start another offensive in northern Ukraine. According to him, it would take at least 80,000 soldiers to launch a second invasion attempt on northern Ukraine.
While this would force the Ukrainian military to move forces north, there is a good chance that Ukraine, outnumbered but better equipped, would be able to repel the attack from the north. In an interview with “Die Welt”, historian and military expert Phillips O’Brien confirmed that an attack from Belarus would not be a smart move.
“I think Ukraine would be happy with the Russian army if they dared a new attack on the capital Kyiv. The Ukrainians, on paper, forced Russian troops to retreat with a small force in March. A Russian offensive has advantages for the Ukrainians. You don’t have to engage the enemy on their defensive stance,” O’Brien said.
So it is more likely that Russia will launch its spring offensive from Russian soil. Namely with soldiers, which he could recruit in an imminent mobilization. You can read more about this here: Putin’s mobilization is imminent – bigger and quieter than the first
There are a number of indications that Belarus would join the war, but there are also many that speak against it. Lukashenko’s entry into the war cannot be ruled out, but it seems very unlikely given the high domestic political risks. Especially considering the marginal impact Belarus’ entry into the war would have on the Russian offensive. Belarus will probably continue to operate in the background – and be a shadow player in the Ukraine war.