Will Putin put pressure on Belarus to join the conflict in Ukraine?

Image of Alexander Lukashenko with Vladimir Putin in February 2021. Credit: kremlin.ru CC BY 4.0

Could Alexander Lukashenko be put under pressure by Vladimir Putin to bring Belarus into the Ukrainian conflict?

 

Belarus and Russia are long-standing allies. Rumours have swirled ever since Vladimir Putin began his ‘special operation’ in Ukraine that sooner or later, 67-year-old Alexander Lukashenko will be pressured by the Russian leader to enter the conflict. 

The Belarusian president has so far avoided becoming a part of the brutal invasion staged by Putin, but it is known to be feared among experts that he could eventually get dragged in. Russia allegedly already has nuclear-capable missiles based in the country, and Putin recently agreed to deliver Iskander-M missiles to Belarus to ‘upgrade’ Lukashenko’s cold war supply.

Lukashenko is very aware that the citizens of his country are against any involvement in Ukraine. This sentiment was echoed by Artyom Shraibman, a non-resident scholar at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, who fled Belarus in 2021.

Speaking with AFP, Shraibman said: “There are no rational reasons – or irrational reasons for that matter – for Minsk to join, for Lukashenko to join. What is Putin capable of doing? Will he be able to force Lukashenko to join? It’s an open question”.

“I’m not sure the Belarusian army would add much. It’s way more reasonable to keep them on the border, to keep Ukrainians on alert on the border, rather than moving the few battalions Belarus has into war”, he suggested.

Volodymyr Zelensky, the Ukrainian president, commented earlier this week that he did not believe Minsk would let itself get sucked into the war. “But there are and will be provocations. There is a threat of Belarus getting involved”.

Lukashenko claimed his army shot down missiles fired from Ukraine

It would take only one isolated incident maybe to spark Lukashenko into joining Putin. Tensions have been simmering since the start of July when the strongman claimed missiles had been shot down by his military inside Belarus after being fired from Ukrainian territory. At the time, he vowed that any enemy strike would see an instant response.

Without providing evidence that the attack ever happened, he said: “We are being provoked. They are still trying to drag us into the war in Ukraine. The goal is to get rid of both Russia and Belarus at one fling”.

Alexander Khramchikhin, a renowned Russian military analyst had similar thoughts. “The Belarusian army has zero combat experience compared to both the Ukrainian and Russian armies. Its combat value is very low”. 

He believed the Belarusian troops served a more useful purpose simply by being camped on the Polish border. If Minsk did decide to attack then “it will create quite significant additional stress for Ukraine, because it will be an attack from a new direction”, he added, as reported by news.yahoo.com on Friday, July 8.

The Belarusian leader will have clear memories of the mass protests that occurred in 2020-2021. According to Fyodor Lukyanov, a Kremlin-connected political analyst speaking with AFP, “I think President Lukashenko is well aware that this will not be something that will strengthen his popularity in the country”.

British think-tank Chatham House conducted a poll in June, which revealed that 43 per cent of the Belarusian people did not approve of Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. As few as four per cent said they would support Belarus sending troops in.

“Belarusians are a very peaceful nation”, stated Veronica Laputska, co-founder of the think-tank EAST Center in the Polish capital of Warsaw. They were deeply opposed to all forms of violence she claimed, as a result of almost one in every four citizens perishing during World War II.

Lukashenko made a chilling statement

That didn’t stop Lukashenko from making a chilling statement on July 2. According to BelTA, he commented, without going into more detail, “The time has come for the forgetful Europe to give itself a moral cleansing”.

He was referring to the Second World War, or the ‘Great Patriotic War’ as Russia calls it. The president claimed that the fight against the Nazis was not over yet. He allegedly continued: “It is “a war to destroy the Slavic ethnos, cultures and entire nations. Today we often say that this war is not over yet.”

“It is not over yet because not everyone who was involved in the monstrous facts of that war has been punished. That war is not over yet because once again, as at the frontline, we are defending our historical memory”.

Lukashenko announced recently that a single army was being formed by Belarus and Russia. “We are the only country that supports the Russians in this struggle. Those who reproach us, did you not know that we have the closest alliance with the Russian Federation? With a state with which we are building a single, powerful, independent state”, as reported by uk.news.yahoo.com.

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Written by

Chris King

Originally from Wales, Chris spent years on the Costa del Sol before moving to the Algarve where he is a web reporter for The Euro Weekly News covering international and Spanish national news. Got a news story you want to share? Then get in touch at [email protected]

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