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Putin wants Belarus to sacrifice itself


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Kremlin boss Vladimir Putin has already set the narrative for Belarus’ entry into the war: an attack by Ukraine.(Photo: dpa)

Concerns about a new front on the border with Belarus are growing in Ukraine. The ruler Lukashenko is having trouble averting his country’s entry into the war – because Putin is likely to use its economic dependency to extort materials and men from him.

At the beginning of the year, the Belarusian ruler, Alexander Lukashenko, reported a phantom experience: the Ukrainian government had proposed a “non-aggression pact” to him while at the same time planning an invasion of Belarus. Volodymyr Zelenskyj immediately denied it. But the narrative is set – in the spirit of the Kremlin. Concern is now manifesting itself in Ukraine that Belarus can actually prepare for war. There has been speculation about this for months. So far, however, Lukashenko has always maintained that he does not want to send his own troops across the 1,000-kilometer border with Ukraine. But how much is this promise worth?


Ukrainians well remember the last time Lukashenko denied reports of an impending attack – shortly after that Russia’s invasion of the neighboring country began from Belarusian soil. Since then, more than 600 rockets have been fired at Ukraine from Belarus, according to estimates by the Hajun project, which is critical of the government. Many of these hit the country’s critical infrastructure. Around 12,000 Russian soldiers are stationed in Belarus, newly mobilized Russians are being trained there for use in the war, and Russia’s most important ally is also willing to provide equipment and weapons.

Nevertheless, Kremlin boss Vladimir Putin would be only too happy if Lukashenko would send his own forces into the field against Ukraine – especially now that the war is celebrating the first anniversary. Putin needs success, but the troop strength on Belarusian soil is not sufficient to launch a new offensive in the north-west of the country. Although Belarus only has around 45,000 active soldiers , it still has 290,000 reservists. There are also around 600 main battle tanks, more than 230 self-propelled rocket launchers, 1,510 armored vehicles, 38 fighter planes and plenty of artillery. Still, military strength is one thing, experience is another.

Belarusians lack experience


The Belarusian armed forces have hardly any combat experience, analyzed the military experts Christian Mölling and András Rácz in a guest article for ZDF at the end of December . In January 2022, Belarusian special forces were involved in a foreign mission in Kazakhstan for the first time. Lukashenko is in command of the least experienced army in Europe. How helpful it could be for Putin against well-trained and battle-hardened Ukrainian forces is unclear. At the same time, Lukashenko might have problems putting down a new wave of protests in his own country if his army is fighting in Ukraine.

His problem is that he is dependent on Putin. Western sanctions have been giving Belarus a hard time since the bloody crackdown on the 2020 protests, and the EU failed to buy Belarusian potash fertilizer even before the war of aggression against Ukraine began. Lukashenko is trying to find new trading partners in Asia and Africa, but the country’s isolation from the West is causing more and more problems for the economy. Last year, GDP fell by 4.7 percent compared to the previous year, while inflation rose to 16.5 percent. At some point the gold and currency reserves will no longer be able to compensate for this.

Lukashenko depends on the Kremlin drip

Putin helped with a $1.5 billion loan in 2020, and in 2021 he added another half a billion. The country has long been dependent on the Kremlin chief’s drip – and he expects military support for his “special operation” in return. More Russian troops only arrived in Belarus in January, allegedly only for a joint military exercise by the air force. The maneuver officially ended on February 2nd. But Ukraine believes the exercise may have been preparation for a new offensive in the spring.

Several drone overflights in the border area that were registered by the Belarusian side show how worried Kiev is. The Belarusian border guard reported that a Ukrainian reconnaissance drone was shot down in early February . More than 17,000 Ukrainian soldiers are said to be concentrated in the region – everything to be prepared for another offensive. But experts consider an attack at this point in the spring to be unlikely due to a lack of reservists and material. In addition, the Russian army is currently intensifying its activities in the Luhansk area.

According to the US Institute for War Studies (ISW), a Russian offensive from Belarus would be realistic in the fall at the earliest. And even then, the Kremlin’s armed forces would face a difficult task. Because the terrain in the region is swampy, beavers cause large-scale flooding with their dams. There are only a few roads, but many small rivers that make it difficult to get through. The Polish newspaper “Gazeta Wyborcza” therefore considers it more likely that the Russians want to strike from Belarus in the direction of the Polish border – in order to cut off western arms deliveries to Ukraine.

Source: ntv


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