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Will Belarus Join Moscow’s Ukraine Offensive?

#Belarus #Join #Moscows #Ukraine #Offensive

Belarus has served as a staging post for Russia’s intervention in Ukraine, but strongman Alexander Lukashenko has so far avoided becoming a party to the conflict.

Observers emphasize that there is no end in sight to Moscow’s military operation in Ukraine, which has lasted more than four months, and do not rule out the possibility that Belarus could also be involved.

Artyom Shraibman, a non-resident researcher with the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, said Lukashenko is acutely aware of the fact that most Belarusians do not support sending troops to Ukraine.

But that doesn’t mean that President Vladimir Putin won’t try to put pressure on Lukashenko and that Belarus won’t go on the offensive in the future.

“There are no rational reasons – or irrational reasons for that matter – for Minsk or Lukashenko to join,” Shraibman told AFP.

“What can Putin do? Will he be able to force Lukashenko to join? That’s an open question.”

Lukashenko has attempted to portray himself as Putin’s most loyal ally, welcoming Russian troops under the guise of military exercises before Moscow launched its Ukraine offensive and attempted to take the capital, Kyiv, and failed.

He has also argued that had Moscow not intervened, Ukraine would have attacked Belarus.

Despite not officially being a belligerent, the Belarusian strongman has called for his country to be included in any talks and agreement to end the conflict.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said this week Kyiv does not believe Minsk will be drawn into the conflict.

“But there are and will be provocations,” Zelensky said.

“There is a risk that Belarus will interfere.”

– “Zero combat experience” –

Tensions between Ukraine and Belarus are rising.

In early July, Lukashenko said his army shot down missiles fired at its territory from Ukraine and vowed to respond “immediately” to any enemy attack.

Putin said that Moscow will supply Iskander-M missiles capable of delivering nuclear weapons to Belarus “in the coming months”.

Shraibman, who fled Lukashenko’s repressive regime in 2021, pointed out that the Belarusian strongman provided Russia with the necessary logistical support but conspicuously refrained from sending troops to Ukraine.

“I’m not sure the Belarusian army would contribute much,” he said.

“It’s much more sensible to keep them on the border to keep Ukrainians on the border on alert than to send the few battalions Belarus has to go to war.”

Russian military analyst Alexander Khramchikhin suggested a similar remark, saying Minsk involvement in the conflict was unlikely.

“The Belarusian army has zero combat experience compared to the Ukrainian and Russian armies,” he said.

“His combat value is very low.”

He said it made more sense for Putin to use Belarus to maintain “some tension” on the border with Poland.

Still, he said, if Belarusian troops attacked, “it would create quite significant additional stress for Ukraine because it would be an attack from a new direction.”

Experts say Belarus’ role in the Ukraine offensive will ultimately depend on what Putin wants.

Lukashenko, 67, is heavily dependent on the Russian leader militarily and economically.

As unprecedented protests rocked Belarus in 2020 over an election the opposition allegedly stole, the mustachioed leader looked to Moscow to solidify his position.

– ‘Peaceful Nation’ –

Political scientists say if Lukashenko goes to war against Ukraine, he risks reigniting the mass protests that rocked his rule in 2020-2021.

“I think President Lukashenko is aware that this will not increase his popularity in the country,” Kremlin-affiliated political scientist Fyodor Lukyanov told AFP.

According to a June poll by British think tank Chatham House, 43 percent of Belarusians do not support the Russian offensive in Ukraine.

Only 4 percent would support the use of the Belarusian army.

Veronica Laputska, co-founder of the EAST Center think-tank in Warsaw, said that the Belarusian people suffered enormous losses during World War II, when about one in four died, and that they were “deeply averse to any kind of violence”.

“Belarusians are a very peaceful nation,” she said.

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#Belarus #Join #Moscows #Ukraine #Offensive

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