Is Belarus’ neutrality about Ukraine in question?

22.05.2021 Off By Editor
Is Belarus’ neutrality about Ukraine in question?

Since 2014, Belarus has been trying to balance its foreign policy between Russia and Ukraine, positioning itself as a “neutral” country, which made Minsk a platform for TCG meetings. But after last year’s presidential election in Belarus and mass protests, as a result, Alexander Lukashenko became more dependent on Vladimir Putin.

What should we expect from this situation? This topic was discussed by experts from Ukraine, Belarus, Poland and Lithuania during the roundtable “Belarus – a new western outpost of Russian aggression? The event, which was held at the news agency Ukrinform on 13 May, was organized by the International Center for Countering Russian Propaganda.

Head of Analytical Center Belarus Security Blog Andrei Porotnikov noted that the Kremlin is the only legitimizer of Alexander Lukashenko as a ruler. Therefore, if he loses the Kremlin’s public support, he will lose power within two months.

“The Ukraine factor is traditionally a red rag for the Russian elites. And I’m afraid that the official Minsk, the Belarusian top brass, may provoke some aggravation with Ukraine in order to make concessions to the Kremlin,” said Andrei Porotnikov.

During the roundtable experts discussed the joint Russian-Belarusian military exercise “West-2021” that will take place in Belarus in September this year.

“The main goal is to regain control of Ukraine. Above the state of Ukraine. And even its elimination. Therefore, the military element we are considering, which will take place in autumn in Belarus, training is one of the elements of the operation to cover the strategic deployment and creation of these groups of troops,” said the coordinator of the project “Information Resistance” Konstantin Mashovets.

Director of the Center for Strategic and Foreign Policy Studies Arseniy Sivitsky pointed out that there are two united military structures within the Union State.

“This is a regional grouping of troops, which includes all land forces and special operations forces of the armed forces of Belarus. Plus the First Guards Tank Army of the Western Military District. There is also a single air defense system, which is also under the command of the Belarusian side,” said Sivitsky.

He also stressed that it is still unknown what the scenario of large-scale strategic maneuvers Zapad 2021 will be. Obviously, preparations for them could be observed in March-April when the so-called sudden inspection of combat readiness of the Russian Armed Forces took place.

“Troops of the Western, Southern and Central Military Districts, as well as the united strategic command “North” will be involved in the Russian strategic maneuvers “West 2021″. So far, we are not quite sure what to expect exactly from these strategic maneuvers. I understand that, to a large extent, the main purpose of the military readiness test in Russia, which we saw in March and April, was to demonstrate strength and thus to send a certain signal to Washington, which received that signal,” the expert said.

According to Sivitsky, the scale and scenario of Russian strategic maneuvers in the framework of joint Russian-Belarusian military exercises “West-2021” will be largely determined by the results of negotiations between Putin and Biden.

Ukrainian border guards are ready for the risks associated with the future Russian-Belarusian military exercise “West-2021” in neighboring Belarus.

During the round table “Belarus – a new western outpost of Russian aggression?” this was stated by the Director of the Department of State Border Protection of the Administration of the State Border Guard Service of Ukraine, Leonid Baran.

“The Ukrainian Border Guard Service is preparing for the upcoming West-2021 exercise. These exercises will be held at military ranges not so close to the border, at the same time we take into account, do not exclude and even believe that Russian scouts will work on many linear positions of the Belarusian border units, including those on the border with Ukraine,” said Baran.

He assured that the border agency is aware of all the risks on the border with Belarus, so it’s increasing its capacity and strengthening the state border.

“We have recently strengthened our capabilities in aerial monitoring, the use of manned aircraft and drones, received a new batch of helicopters under the agreement with France, and a significant part of these aircraft will go to strengthen the air border with Belarus,” he said.

Baran also noted that Belarus and Russia are planning to significantly increase the engineering component in border protection within the framework of the Union State, which could mean their joint reconnaissance activities.

“The leadership of the State Border Committee of the Republic of Belarus has initiated the need to build up specifically joint capabilities with their Russian counterparts and conduct special technical reconnaissance along their south-western border and from the positions of Belarus’ border infrastructure at the expense of the Russian technical component. We closely monitor the practical implementation of this initiative and, in particular, the activities of the border authorities of Belarus and Russia, which may indicate the creation of joint checkpoints for electronic surveillance,” he said

At the same time, Leonid Baran assured that the situation on the border with Belarus remained fully controlled and fully predictable since August last year the State Border Service switched to a reinforced protection of the border with Belarus.

Authoritarian regimes, which include the Russian Federation and Belarus, do not care much about the observance of international law. This was stated by political technologist Vitaliy Shklyarov.

The roundtable participants agreed that it was necessary to do everything possible so that Belarus would not be dragged into the Russian-Ukrainian military conflict.

Valentina Bykova, International Center for Countering Russian Propaganda