Such an irony of fate.
Thank God that this is not happening here! Most likely, this is what the Belarusian leadership thinks about the large joint exercises with the Russia “Union Shield-2019” that has started near Nizhny Novgorod today. Two years ago, the West-2017 maneuvers of the two armies on Belarusian land greatly alarmed NATO’s neighbors and even caused a wave of alarmism in Belarus itself.
After the Crimea, the Baltic countries and Poland began to react very nervously to the activity of the Russian troops nearby. Among Belarusians, fears increased that “green men” from the eastern border might come and stay.
No trust between “deadly allies”
The annexation of the Crimea impressed the Belarusian leadership. On “hot scents”, in April 2014, Aliaksandr Lukashenka came up with the following slip of the tongue:
“If Putin comes here tomorrow, it is not known on whose side the Russians will fight. And I know whose! Therefore, do not scare us with Putin …”
In 2015, Lukashenka reared up when the Kremlin tried to force the deployment of an air base in Babruisk. In 2016, the new military doctrine of Belarus was adopted - with an emphasis on confronting hybrid threats. Analysts amicably concluded that the bitter experience of Ukraine propelled this.
In any case, although official refrains about brotherhood in arms continue to sound, de facto there is no trust between the allies.
Moscow may come with missiles
The tension between Minsk and Moscow increased sharply when at the end of last year Russia took hold of Belarus’ throat with a demand for “deeper integration”. And the persons who claimed knowledge of Kremlin secrets shouted, interrupting each other, that Vladimir Putin could solve the 2024 problem for himself by adjoining Belarus and heading a new state.
Lukashenka, it seems, has managed to fend off the most threatening points of “deep integration” for today, but Moscow will press on, using the catastrophic dependence of the Belarusian economy on the Russian one.
At the same time, the Kremlin, although it reminds time after time that it is necessary to strictly observe allied fidelity, is not in a hurry to give the Belarusian army more or less modern weapons. As a result, Lukashenka had to negotiate with the Chinese to help create the Polonaise missile system.
But Moscow can impose on Minsk the deployment of its missile bases if an arms race begins in the region. And such a threat intensified after the destruction of the Intermediate-Range and Shorter-Range Missile Treaty. In addition, Russian strategists are nervous about creating the base of the American missile defense system in Poland.
As Belarusian analyst Arsen Sivitski believes, the Kremlin has plans to reassign the regional grouping of troops of the two countries to the Russian command, to create a single military organization of the so-called Union State. And if Minsk digs in heels, then Moscow may also intervene in the domestic affairs of Belarus.
The devious monster crawled from the other side
In addition, the stigma of the military satellite of Russia undermines the efforts of the Belarusian diplomacy to develop the Western vector, present Belarus as a donor of regional stability, expand the niche of peacekeeping, and promote the Helsinki-2 initiative.
Kyiv at one time rejected Lukashenka’s proposals to send Belarusian peacekeepers to the Donbas: what kind of neutral are you, being under the heel of the Kremlin. In NATO, the Belarusian army is perceived as part of the Russian military machine.
And here is the irony of fate. At the dawn of his presidency, Lukashenka felt very comfortable under the Russian nuclear umbrella and in anti-Western, anti-NATO rhetoric he even overtook Moscow hawks. His phrase that the devious monster of NATO creeps up to the blue-eyed Belarus has become a meme.
However, years passed, and there was no trace of the former allied idyll. Relations got spoiled by a series of gas, oil, food, information wars. “Rising from its knees” Russia showed imperial manners in the conflicts with Georgia and Ukraine.
And then the annexation of Belarus with this or that sauce became a routine in the mouth of Moscow commentators. And now the Belarusian army is preparing for a hybrid war without much publicity, while Lukashenka is fighting off the military bases of his dear ally with his hands and feet, seeing them as reference points for incorporation.
So, all of a sudden, the devious monster creeped from the other side. There’s no running away from it, like in some nightmare
Aliaksandr Klaskouski, Belsat