On 4 October Alexander Lukashenko the President of Belarus said, “NATO is preparing for war with Belarus”. Belarusian Defense Minister Khrenin, in turn, said that “a number of countries neighbouring Belarus have already outlined the goals they want to achieve”. This statement, made at the highest level, shows that Belarus is creating a pretext for the return of Russian military presence in Belarus.
Belarusian officials are voicing the narrative of Kremlin propaganda, so such statements are not accidental. In voicing the Russian narrative and accusing the West (NATO) of aggressive intentions, Lukashenko is using the classic Soviet propaganda tactic of accusing his counterpart as an aggressor to justify his future decisions. From a foreign policy perspective, Lukashenko will demonise the West (NATO) as a permanent threat to Belarus and Russia. On the domestic political front, Russian presence (including military) on the territory of Belarus may be expected to intensify.
The infrastructure for the deployment of 20,000 military personnel from Russia is being prepared in Belarus. They should strengthen the existing contingent, and in Putin’s vision, this could be a prologue to the establishment of a Russian military base in Belarus.
Russia has always regarded the army as an important tool in extending its political presence. Putin’s actions over the past year, the invasion of Ukraine, and the sham referenda all point to the fact that he is bolstering his “Greater Russia” project and is ready to annex neighbouring states. Belarus is already de facto annexed by Russia, and Putin is trying to consolidate Russia’s absolute influence there by consistently turning Belarus into an anti-Western outpost.
Lukashenko systematically accuses the West of aggressive intentions towards Belarus, and this fully matches the Kremlin narrative. The increase in the number of Russian troops on the territory of Belarus is an alarming sign not only for Ukraine but also for Europe.
Lukashenko has become a traitor to his own people, making them hostages of the Kremlin. He gave Putin an entire country without a fight, which has become a training ground and springboard for the Russian offensive against Ukraine.
The Russian military officers stationed on the territory of Belarus have caused outrage: 30 cases of rape have been registered in the last two weeks alone, which go unpunished because the Russian officers tacitly enjoy immunity.
Lukashenko’s words are a repetition of the Kremlin narrative, since the president of Belarus has neither his own opinion nor political will. He confirmed his loyalty to Russia, and indicated that he would side with Putin in the event of a conflict between Moscow and the West.
European countries should view Belarus and Russia as one in the context of a likely threat. Belarus is an ideal platform for Russia’s hybrid attacks on Europe such as, the artificially created migration crisis on the Belarusian-Polish border in autumn 2021. The Belarusian authorities lead public opinion for Russian propaganda. There should be no illusions that Lukashenko may change his rhetoric: because for him, this would mean the end of his rule. Accordingly the West should be prepared for mischief from Belarus in the short and medium term.