Ukrainian military intelligence is sure: in a day or two, Belarus will join the war together with Russian troops. Ruler Alexander Lukashenko made the decision “despite the reluctance of ordinary soldiers and the people of Belarus,” as an anonymous secret service source quoted “Ukrainska Pravda” on Sunday.
This communication is undoubtedly interest-driven. It can be interpreted as an appeal to his own compatriots to persevere, since kyiv assumes that the war will continue to escalate and that Ukraine is threatened by new dangers and new suffering. Or as a warning to the neighboring country: Do not dare! We are ready to defend against you too! The Ukrainian General Staff sent this message over the weekend.
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Since the beginning of the war, the ruler Lukashenko has repeatedly emphasized that he considers the war against Ukraine completely justified and that he is loyal to the Kremlin.
On March 11, he met with Russian President Vladimir Putin. It was agreed that they would fight together against the sanctions imposed by the West. Moscow is supplying Lukashenko with weapons, “including the most modern models of war technology,” according to the statement about the visit, and Belarus is exporting more food to Russia.
However, Lukashenko has repeatedly emphasized that Belarus will not take part in the invasion, most recently in a detailed interview for Japanese television station TBS last week. Ukraine has “adopted a hostile position against Belarus,” he said there, training fighters against Belarus and smuggling explosives and weapons into the neighboring country to overthrow it.
However, according to Lukashenko, he called Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on the fourth day of the war and suggested immediate negotiations with Russia. Lukashenko explained to Japanese journalists that they emerged on his initiative and on Belarusian soil. Now they are held in videoconferences.
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In the interview, Lukashenko asked himself questions to reiterate that Belarus is not involved in the war: “What do you think we can give Russia? As for the number of soldiers, there they have enough forces of their own. Can we give them some weapons? No. We buy everything in the Russian Federation. They have it all, and better. They won’t call us.”
It almost seemed as if Lukashenko wanted to repeat the course he followed in 2014 during Russia’s annexation of Crimea: declarations of loyalty to Moscow, but at the same time balancing carefully on neutral positions, avoiding all and especially not all westbound bridges. bridges to abort his own people. But these connections, which still existed at the time, have now been destroyed.
If Putin wants more, he will get it
After the bloody repression of the opposition movement in the autumn and winter of 2020, Lukashenko’s room for maneuver is practically nil and his dependence on Moscow is total. Lukashenko can only stay in power thanks to Putin. He himself formulated the relationship during his recent visit to Moscow, the “Ria Novosti” agency quotes him: Russia and Belarus are an inseparable whole in the economy and in the military sphere.
Lukashenko has already led his country to war. Long before hostilities broke out, he made the staging area available to Russian troops and had his soldiers conduct joint exercises. In the fourth week, Russian fighter jets will also take off from Belarusian airfields to attack cities in the neighboring country.
Resupply, while apparently malfunctioning, also comes from ammunition and fuel depots in Belarus. Wounded Russian soldiers are treated in Belarusian hospitals. Given all this, it seems likely: If Putin wants more from Lukashenko, he will get it.