What impact could the annexation of the Belarusian army to the Russian one have on the war with Ukraine

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko inspects troops during joint Russia-Belarus military exercises (AP Photo, File)

Statements made this week by Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko have reignited fears that his army could join Russian forces in Moscow’s war against Ukraine, but the authoritarian leader appears reluctant to lend his troops to the effort. despite perceived pressure from Russia. Moscow.

Russia has already used Belarus, its longtime dependent ally, as a staging ground to send troops and missiles into Ukraine. Analysts say that if Belarus’s small and inexperienced military gets involved, the additional troops could help Moscow cut off some key transportation corridors, but would likely not significantly increase Russian President Vladimir Putin’s capabilities on the battlefield.

“The Belarusian army is weak and unmotivated and unwilling to fight Ukraine, which means Lukashenko will try to give Putin anything but Belarusian soldiers.”Ukrainian military analyst Oleh Zhdanov told The Associated Press on Tuesday. “Lukashenko is letting Putin know: ‘I will help, but I will not fight’”.

army of belarus in the war in ukraine
Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko gestures as he speaks to reporters at the Osipovichi training camp (AP Photo, File)

Lukashenko announced on Monday that he and Putin had agreed to create a joint “regional grouping of troops” and that several thousand Russian soldiers would be stationed in Belarus. Lukashenko did not offer details on where the troops will be deployed, and Russia’s motives were not immediately clear, though the comments come as Moscow is struggling to replenish troops lost on the battlefield.

The Belarusian leader also said that kyiv is plotting to attack Belarus, and warned Ukraine not to attack “even one meter of our territory with dirty hands.” His defense minister Viktor Khrenin also warned Ukraine not to provoke Belarus, saying: “We don’t want to fight” and yet, a day later, he emphasized that the joint force is for defense.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy assured leaders of the Group of Seven industrial powers on Tuesday that kyiv is not planning military actions against Belarus. She said that Moscow “is trying to draw Belarus directly into this war.”

army of belarus in the war in ukraine
Tanks move during the Russia-Belarus Union Courage-2022 military exercises at the Obuz-Lesnovsky training ground in Belarus (AP Photo, File)

Oleksiy Danilov, head of Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council, told Ukrainian television on Tuesday that Belarus is being “hostage to Russia”.

Fears of Russian pressure on Belarus are not unfounded. Lukashenko, an authoritarian leader, has ruled Belarus with an iron fist for 28 years while he had the political and economic support of Russia. Moscow has injected billions of dollars to prop up Lukashenko’s Soviet-style state-controlled economy with cheap energy and loans. And in 2020, the Kremlin helped him survive the largest mass protests in the country’s history, following a presidential election that the opposition and the West denounced as rigged.

Alexander has publicly supported Russia’s attack on Ukraine, drawing international criticism and sanctions against Minsk. Still, he has repeatedly dismissed speculation that Belarus would send its own soldiers to fight alongside Russia.

army of belarus in the war in ukraine
A heat haze rises around a column of Belarusian army tanks as they rehearse a parade in Minsk (AP Photo, File)

“Neither the Belarusian elites nor the population are ready to participate in this incomprehensible war”Valery Karbalevich, an independent Belarusian analyst, told the AP. Karbalevich said that Lukashenko is trying to negotiateoffering to keep Russian nuclear weapons on its territory and create the joint force, while hinting at the weakness of its own military.

Part of Belarus’s 1,000-kilometre (621-mile) border with northwestern Ukraine lies about 90 kilometers (56 miles) north of kyiv, Ukraine’s capital. Troops from Belarus would likely move west and attack the cities of Lviv and Lutsk, key transportation hubs for Western military supplies, said Zhdanov, a Ukrainian military analyst.

“It is vital that Russia cut off the transport corridor, because through Lviv Western weapons reach the east and south, where the Ukrainian army is conducting a successful counteroffensive, and this can only be done from Belarus,” Zhdanov said.

army of belarus in the war in ukraine
Russian President Vladimir Putin and Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko (Alexei Druzhinin, Sputnik, Kremlin pool photo via AP, File)

However the army of Lukashenko is relatively little (only 45,000 soldiers, including conscripts) and largely inexperienced. The Belarusian military conducts regular drills, but has not been in combat since World War II.

In the best case, Minsk will be able to deploy 20,000 soldiers, professional contract soldiers, according to Zhdanov.

Belarusian military analyst Alexander Alesin said Lukashenko can avoid getting involved by saying his limited troops are needed to defend Belarus’s borders from its neighbors: NATO members Poland, Lithuania and Latvia.

army of belarus in the war in ukraine
Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, right, and Belarusian Defense Minister Viktor Khrenin, center, attend a meeting with Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, left, in Minsk, Belarus, in February 2022 (Photo by Maxim Guchek/BelTA Pool via AP, File)

The Belarusian leader said earlier this year that the Kremlin’s campaign in Ukraine “has dragged on” and even suggested that he could mediate peace talks, insisting on the need to end the war as soon as possible. Kabralevich said Lukashenko understands that Russia is losing the war and he “is trying to crawl as far away from Russia as possible.”

Alexander is also facing public frustration at home, as Belarusians are feeling the effects of crippling Western sanctions and rising inflation, already twice as high as last year.

“After the mass protests of 2020, when hundreds of thousands of people demanded the resignation of the leader of Belarus, Lukashenko is afraid to arm Belarusians. It can cause another domestic explosion”Karbalevich said.

army of belarus in the war in ukraine
Belarusian army vehicles drive by during the rehearsal of the Victory Day military parade in Minsk, Belarus (AP Photo, File)

And, Alesin said, the Belarusians are not mentally prepared to fight the Ukrainians.

“Unlike the Russians, the Belarusians have absolutely no hostility towards the Ukrainians and do not understand the goal of this special operation. This may result in the masses refusing to carry out orders to shoot at Ukrainians,” he said.

(with information from AP)


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