Lukashenko to sing his swan song in November: the Kremlin intends to annex Belarus22.10.2021
Unfortunately for the entire Western world, the Kremlin has finally started the open militarization of Belarus and is actively engaging it in the Kremlin’s hybrid war against NATO. There is no Lukashenko regime any more, because Lukashenko himself has become a part of Putin’s regime.
The Kremlin’s strategy in this regard has, once again, paid off – the Russian Armed Forces, without firing a single shot, have been able to increase their presence in this “sovereign” post-Soviet country. Moreover, the armed forces of both countries are being actively integrated into each other. Lukashenko agreed to this in order to remain in power and save himself from the Belarusian people.
There is a reason Putin and Lukashenko have met more often this year than any other year. Both men also met prior to the “joint” exercise Zapad-2021. I see this meeting as the beginning of the occupation of Belarus, since Putin dominated over all of the discussed issues and all decisions that were made during the meeting were in the Kremlin’s interests. Lukashenko was allowed to remain in control over Belarus, i.e. he was allowed to become Putin’s vassal.
The “joint” military exercises were held on a massive scale, demonstrating to NATO how the Russian-Belarusian “Union State” engages in large-scale military maneuvers right next to the borders of Western countries. According to the Kremlin’s official sources, the exercise engaged 200,000 military personnel, out of which 12,800 (2,500 troops) carried out their training exercises in the territory of Belarus. These numbers are most likely untrue, as Zapad-2021 featured much more personnel and combat equipment.
During Zapad-2021, Russian equipment and military personnel arrived in Belarus, and it was known that they intended to stay there even after the exercise. It is known that on 8 September the first Russian fighters arrived in Belarus where they were to be engaged in activities as part of the Russian-Belarusian joint combat training center.
In reality, the Kremlin had been pressuring the Lukashenko regime since the beginning of September, which has resulted in Putin’s clique rapidly increasing their influence in Belarus. After the meeting between Putin and Lukashenko which was held on 9 September, the 28 steps of the Russian-Belarusian integration program were officially announced. I would say these are the 28 steps the Kremlin has to take to complete the occupation of Belarus.
Despite this, no one – except, of course, Putin and Lukashenko – has seen the document. Both sides plan to sign it in November. If nothing changes in this regard, one day in November we will be able to witness on the Kremlin’s and Belarus’ propaganda channels how the Crimea-is-ours people amass in the streets, probably chanting: “Belarus is ours!”
This is the reality of the incomprehensible hybrid war – many people thought that the situation in Donbass will be escalated under the pretext of Zapad-2021, and that might have been followed by a further attack against Ukraine, leading to its complete occupation. However, it turned out that the goal was to corner Lukashenko.
Along with Lukashenko’s statements about the willingness of Belarus to continue further integration with Russia, it is perfectly understandable why there are Russian soldiers present in the country. It is also possible that no one is even wondering what Russian troops and military equipment are doing in Belarus.
Lukashenko’s rhetoric has also changed drastically – just a year before, he talked and behaved as the protector of Belarus’ independence. Now, however, when meeting with Putin, Lukashenko has completely changed his tone: “If the necessity arises to establish close relations – much closer than they would be as part of the “Union State” – myself and Putin will do it easily.”
At the same time, the Kremlin is in not rushing to make public statements regarding the establishment of the “Union State”, because it first wants to gain complete control of Belarus’ most important economic spheres and place as many troops in Belarus as possible. After that, any bureaucracy will stop mattering.
Putin has indeed expressed that a “united” parliament of both states could be established in the future, but no one knows whether or when this could happen. One thing is clear, when the Kremlin will have acquired control over the economy of Belarus and have its troops stationed there, no one will even talk about a “united” parliament.
Naturally, Lukashenko understands this well and will try to bargain. However, the situation has changed, and he has little room for any maneuvers. Lukashenko has only two options – the first one is to become Putin’s vassal by selling the sovereignty of Belarus to the Kremlin and nominally remaining its ruler. The second one – flee to Yanukovich to Rostov.
It should also be noted that during Zapad-2021 Lukashenko at the Baranovichi military range publicly announced that the Belarusian Armed Forces are to procure from Russia armaments worth one billion US dollars. Belarus intends to purchase from the Kremlin several dozen military airplanes and helicopters, as well as Tor-M2 and S-400 surface-to-air missile systems. The most despicable thing in all this is that Lukashenko justified the planned armaments procurement from Russia with the necessity to respond to the threats posed by NATO and Ukraine. “We must prepare – the border with Ukraine is 1,200 kilometers long. We will have to secure this perimeter as well,” Lukashenko expressed.
Perhaps, Lukashenko’s announcement about purchasing weapons from Russia is simply him giving in to Putin’s demands without any objections. I can think of no other explanation why Belarus, at a time when it has no money even to restrict and combat Covid-19, would decide it can spend a billion dollars on missiles. This is exactly the Kremlin’s tactic – to force Belarus into an even higher debt and make it even more economically dependent from Moscow.
Now, the Kremlin’s main task is to continue the militarization of Belarus, station Russian troops in the territory of Belarus and threaten Ukraine and the rest of the “friendly” Eastern European countries with military aggression.
It is likely that in the near future, probably by the end of this year, the Belarusian-Russian Joint Air-Defense and Air Force Training and Combat Center in Baranovichi could become a real Russian military base. If the Kremlin, for example, would station additional air defense systems in Belarus, the Ukrainian airspace would be covered in its entirety. Of course, there will be additional “technical specialists” and “military advisors” arriving in Belarus in the near future, i.e. several thousand soldiers armed to the teeth.
The Zapad-2021 itself was nothing special, since the exercise was aimed at frustrating the West and demonstrating the potential threats that could provoke a real escalation of the situation on the borders with NATO member states. However, I cannot disagree with numerous foreign and local experts who have expressed that during Zapad-2021 the Kremlin’s forces carried out offensive maneuvers. The exercise was not intended to improve defensive capabilities, but instead to further offensive capacity when launching a large-scale attack against NATO.
Despite Russia amassing its forces near the Ukrainian border and dragging Belarus into a hybrid war against the Baltic states and putting Lukashenko in a very uncomfortable situation, the main offensive is held in the media environment – and the focus of the pressure is not the West, but instead Belarus. The Kremlin continues to successfully exploit Lukashenko by launching hybrid attacks against Europe through his hands.
Lukashenko’s recent assertions completely match the Kremlin’s propaganda statements. The Kremlin is using Lukashenko’s aggressive rhetoric to issue masked threats and ultimatums to the West. At the moment, Lukashenko is trying to sell lies and fabrications about the West and Ukraine threatening the sovereignty of Belarus; however, it will be interesting to watch how Lukashenko justifies to the Belarusian people selling the sovereignty and independence of their country by becoming absorbed by Russia.
The military cooperation between Russian and Belarus, or the regimes of Putin and Lukashenko to be more precise, can be considered a threat to the European Union, especially the Baltic states and Poland. This is evidenced by the migrant crisis created by Lukashenko on the borders of these countries. But I have no doubt that this “exemplary” hybrid operation was devised in the Kremlin, not Minsk.
The crisis is far from over, and the same goes for the presence of Russian military units in the territory of Belarus. It was initially planned that the Russian army will leave Belarus in the middle of October – quite some time after the Russian State Duma elections (17-19 September). So nothing much has changed so far in this regard, therefore provocations sre still possible.
A similar scenario of Russia expanding its military presence on the Crimean Peninsula resulted in it being annexed by Russia – now, something similar is taking place in Belarus.