Even if Minsk is against, Putin may launch new invasion of Ukraine from Belarus, experts say

Belarus President Alyaksandr Lukashenka with Vladimir Putin and Putin's defense minister Sergey Shoygu observing military exercises (Image: kremlin.ru)

Belarus President Alyaksandr Lukashenka with Vladimir Putin and Putin's defense minister Sergey Shoygu observing military exercises (Image: kremlin.ru) 

2016/11/15 • Analysis & Opinion, Belarus, Military analysis, Russia

Even though Alyaksandr Lukashenka’s government would likely be opposed, Vladimir Putin has sufficient leverage over Belarus to use it as a place des armes in the event of a new Russian invasion of Ukraine or of war with NATO, according to some experts at a conference in Kyiv last week.

But others at the meeting suggested that Moscow might find that ever harder to do, especially if actions by incoming US President Donald Trump push down the price of oil and thus leave Russia less able to subsidize Belarus.

In an article for Ukraine’s Apostrophe portal, Vadym Dovnar says that there has been relatively little media coverage of a conference last week in Kyiv on 25 Years of Ukrainian-Belarusian DialogueProspects for Bilateral Relations at a Time of Global Challenges despite the important arguments that were made there.

Most participants in the meeting argued, he continues, that

“official Minsk will not be in a position to oppose for long demands from Moscow” to be used against Ukraine or NATO, especially since “Belarusian territory and airspace is already being used [by the Russians] against Ukraine.”

Hanna Hopko, head of the Verkhovna Rada’s foreign relations committee, said that Ukrainian experts have been discussing the ways in which Moscow might use Belarusian territory against Ukraine and the likely inability of the Belarusian government to prevent that from happening, despite Minsk’s opposition to any such moves.

Belarus, Ukraine, Moldova map

Belarus, Ukraine and Moldova (Image: KyivPost.com)

Many Belarusian analysts agreed, arguing that “one must not completely exclude the possibility of an invasion of Ukraine from Belarus.” As one of their number put it: “Does the Kremlin view Belarus as a neutral country? I very much doubt it,” given Moscow’s efforts to create joint military forces there.

“Yes, in recent years, Minsk has consistently pursued an effort not to take the side of Russia in its aggressive policy on the post-Soviet space and in the Middle East, has actively developed relations with the opponents of Russia, and even spoken out against any change in the borders of the countries of the former USSR,” the journalist said.

And Minsk has also rewritten its security doctrine, limited Russia’s military presence, and increased the autonomy of the Belarusian armed services,” but he and other experts said that despite that, Belarusian neutrality must be within the limits Moscow will tolerate. And they spoke openly about what they called “the ‘Finlandization’ of Belarus.”

But one comment at the meeting is both encouraging and frightening, encouraging in that it suggests Moscow’s leverage on Minsk may be declining and frightening in that, if that is the case,

Putin may decide to use Belarus against Ukraine sooner rather than later, especially during the unsettled period between the US elections and the inauguration of a new president.

Belarusian analyst Viktor Martynovich said that “cheap oil has made Moscow not all that interesting for Minsk as a partner. Minsk is ready to be friends only with the rich and the generous. Present-day Moscow is not rich and not generous, and so Ukraine ought not to be afraid of Belarus” all other things being equal.

At the same time, he added, “Donald Trump’s promises to lift the limits on oil production mean that oil prices will continue to fall, and therefore Belarus should remain at least conditionally neutral,” a conclusion that the Kremlin is probably just as aware of as are people in Minsk and Kyiv.


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Edited by: A. N.

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  • zorbatheturk

    Jail Putin.

    • Fortranz

      And once the VChK of the Lubyanka has beaten the confession(s) out of him,
      HE IS TO BE SHOT!!

      • zorbatheturk

        Yup.

    • Alex George

      I think the Kremlin generals are wary of how far they push Belarus. It is likely to be the same as Ukraine, with a host of volunteers ready to defend their country against a Kremlin incursion. Belarussians are ambivalent about Europe, but they don;t want to be ruled by the Kremlin. Yet another meat grinder beckons.

      • zorbatheturk

        Belarus sounds a bit like Uranus… a distant planet.

  • Halou

    The Kremlin seems to believe it is the emperor of all the world with it’s wars of territorial conquest, it’s unending litany of absurd and hysterical nuclear threats, and it’s illegal manipulation of elections in Moldova, Britain and the US. It is hardly surprising that Russia would also resort to violating the territory of otherwise neutral nations in pursuit of it’s own imperialist agenda.

    • danram

      The Kremlin doesn’t believe that Russia is “the emperor of the world”, but they most certainly do believe that they still deserve to be treated as a superpower and to have their own “sphere of influence” within which they are free to do as they please.

      The cold hard fact that they don’t like to face is that they are nothing but a cheap, massively corrupt oil kleptocracy dominated by a strutting little dictator. Their annual economic output is less than Italy’s. Aside from oil & gas, vodka, caviar, and a few weapons systems, they don’t produce anything of value that the rest of the world wants. Their military is a pale shadow of what it once was, being hard pressed to maintain even its current limited operations in both Donbas and Syria. They are running out of money rapidly and their currency is in the toilet.

      Yet these people still believe that they are somehow entitled to a privileged “sphere of influence”? Utterly laughable.

      • zorbatheturk

        Moscow has no right to extract rents from 17 million square kilometers of Eurasian territory. Nor does Putin have any right to be the chief recipient of those rents, or any of his evil siloviki buddies.

    • slavko

      Ukraine was neutral and non-aligned when Putin invaded in Feb. 2014

  • Fortranz

    I’m not one for predicting things very much, however, it seems to me that the Kyiv government of Ukraine is doomed not form Belarus but from the election of D. Trump in the USA.

    This being my first public prediction of anything, I sincerely hope I’m wrong, but only time will tell..

    • Quartermaster

      I hope you’re wrong as well. Ukraine needs to be proactive, however, and contact Trump soonest.

      • danram

        Trump and Poroshenko spoke yesterday and will supposedly be meeting soon. The Republican heirarchy in Washington, including Senator John McCain, is already in Trump’s ear about Russia. I doubt that a whole lot will change. In fact, I think Trump may actually have the balls to sell Ukraine advanced American weapons systems, something that the thoroughly limp-wristed Obama could never quite bring himself to do.

        • Quartermaster

          I haven’t heard about such a meeting, but no one person can keep up with everything. I hope Trump does help Ukraine.

      • Alex George

        Yes, Trump rang both Putin and Poroshenko within a day or two of each other.

    • Dagwood Bumstead

      The dwarf may well be in far greater trouble with Trump than he would have been with Hillary as Pres. Trump’s plans for the US oil industry will have a downward effect on world market oil prices, the last thing the dwarf needs. Re the Ukraine, there is full bipartisan support in Congress for lethal aid for Kyiv, which only Obama and Kerry blocked. If the dwarf tries any really funny stuff there probably won’t be any further restraint- and that includes any move to occupy or annex Belarus in order to use it as a base for invasion of the Ukraine. He would probably have been able to get away with an occupation or annexation of Belarus with Obama as Pres, but he’s simply left it too late.

      The dwarf may well start to regret meddling in the US elections to get Trump elected………

      • Fortranz

        “- Re the Ukraine, there is full bipartisan support in Congress for lethal aid for Kyiv, -”

        I think you should take a look at the record on general Michael Flynn before you say that a president Trump will give “lethal aid” to the Kyiv government. Michael Flynn thinks that Putin can be a friend of the US. He might just recommend that for Russian support for the ISIS fight in Syria that president Trump look the other way on all Russian ambitions in East Europe, too demonstrate that friendship.

        “- The dwarf may well start to regret meddling in the US elections to get Trump elected -”

        Only if Paul Ryan [and RNC] in the US Congress think that support of Russia against ISIS in Syria shouldn’t come with the price tag of giving Trump what he says he wants to do with foreign policy on Russia [and NATO].

  • danram

    If Putin wanted to invade UKraine, he should have done it two and a half years ago. Now I strongly doubt that he would be able to pull it off.

    For one thing, the Ukrainian army is now much larger, more experienced, better organized, better trained, and better equipped than it was in early 2014. Plus they have now had 2 1/2 years to dig in. In addition to its standing army of 250,000 men … most of whom are now paid professional volunteers … they have another 150,000 in reserve with combat experience who could be called up. That’s a far cry from the barely 6,000 combat ready soldiers that they had available in early 2014.

    For its part, Russia is rapidly running out of money and its military is stretched thin as in is in Syria and Donbas, as typified by the image of their one single rustbucket of an aircraft carrier belching black smoke while having to be tugged into position off of the coast of Syria. 80% of Russia’s ground forces consist of poorly trained, poorly equipped, and poorly motivated conscripts who rotate out completely every 12 months.

    Finally, if Russia undertook an armed invasion of Ukraine, not only would every remaining sanction in the book be slapped on them but the west would finally provide Ukraine with advanced weapons systems.

    Putin isn’t going to invade Ukraine. It would be a disaster for him and he knows it.

    • Quartermaster

      Frankly, many countries would probably send troops and equipment, not just aid, if Russia invaded. As things stand now, the Ukrainian Army is larger than Russia’s. Putin would be an utter fool to invade Ukraine. He’s an utter fool to think he can hang onto what he’s stolen so far.

      • cowboybob

        Russia doesn’t have to physically invade, his psyops folks are apparently active, just look at how obsessed people are with this subject, it is driving them crazy. Why doesn’t everybody just take a deep breath, hold hands together and sing Kumbaya. This obsession reminds me of that of the Palestinians. The American people elected Trump so that we will stay out of the world’s petty squabbles.