Russian tanks in the Russian town of Klintsy, Bryansk Oblast, bordering Belarus on 5 June 2016. Photo by RFE/RL
Staunton, July 1 – Yury Tsarik, a Belarusian security analyst, says that the strengthening of Russian forces on the Belarusian border and the fact that they are being kept in field conditions rather than installed in new bases shows that Moscow is ready to conduct “a full-scale proxy war” against Belarus and the West.
Tsarik, who is the chairman of the observers council of the Minsk Center for Strategic and Foreign Policy Research, says that no one should be deceived by Moscow’s current charm offensive because the Kremlin is putting far more forces on its Western border than any NATO strengthening could justify.
The Russian forces opposite Belarus are approaching the size and armament of the forces Moscow used in the Donbas and may exceed it by year’s end.
He told Kseniya Kirillova, a US-based Russian analyst that what is especially worrisome is that the large groups of Russian forces that have been moved up to the Belarusian border are not being installed in new bases but rather kept in ’field’ conditions, a pattern that suggests Moscow may plan to use them in the near future.
“According to specialists,” Tsarik says, “Russian forces which have been concentrated on the Belarusian border will be sufficiently numerous for the conduct of a full-scale proxy war on the territory of Belarus.” Indeed, the Russian forces opposite Belarus are approaching the size and armament of the forces Moscow used in the Donbas and may exceed it by year’s end.
He suggests that what will happen next depends in large measure on whether the West decided to dispense with the Minsk Process and decide at the NATO summit in Warsaw to provide more help to Ukraine. If that happens, Russia will certainly increase its “military activity in Ukraine” and may move on Belarus.
“Moscow cannot allow the realization of ‘an aid package’ for the reform of the Ukrainian armed forces from NATO because if such a reform were successful, the Ukrainian army would become a factor which would restrict the regional military domination of Russia,” the Belarusian analyst says.
The Russian leadership is counting on “the destruction of Euro-Atlantic unity, the further erosion of the EU and NATO, [and] the disintegration of the United Kingdom” to keep the West from acting and reducing the attractiveness of the West as “a reliable partner” to the countries in between NATO and Russia.
The Belarusian government is fully aware of what Moscow is doing and has responded by increasing its purchase of military equipment from China and elsewhere. It has accelerated its own defense modernization and is training to respond to “hybrid threats.” And the army has been assigned responsibility for coping with terrorist actions or evidence they are being prepared.
Thus, Tsarik says, if until now, the military would act only after a terrorist incident, now it is prepared to act against those who appear to be planning one. All this is intended, the analyst says, to strengthen Belarusian defenses and thus reduce Moscow’s ability to put pressure on Minsk by insisting as it has since the start of the Ukrainian crisis on “’a single military organization of the Union State.”