Explainer: Is the Belarus-Russia ‘Joint Navy Group’ a Risk to Ukraine?

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko claimed Monday that Ukraine was readying an assault on Belarus and introduced the formation of a “joint navy group” with Russia. 

“Ukraine is not only discussing however planning strikes on the territory of Belarus,” Lukashenko, an in depth ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, stated throughout a gathering with safety officers, in keeping with state information company Belta. “In order for you peace, it’s important to put together for conflict.”

Whereas Belarus has been a staging floor for Russian forces — each floor troops and missile launchers — for the reason that begin of the invasion of Ukraine, Lukashenko’s announcement sparked worldwide concern that Belarus might quickly take a extra energetic function within the combating. 

Lukashenko stated Belarus and Russia have been readying troops in latest days, claiming the preparations have been in accordance with the 2 international locations’ Union State alliance.

President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko at a safety assembly on Oct. 10.

What’s Russia and Belarus’ Union State alliance? 

Belarus and Russia, which share a 1,200-kilometer border, signed the “Union State” treaty in 1999 and have since taken steps towards political, navy and financial integration. 

In accordance with the treaty, if both Russian or Belarusian territory comes beneath risk, the Union State can arrange a joint navy unit for self-defense.  

Although Lukashenko didn’t present any proof Kyiv is planning to assault Belarus, his public warnings of an imminent risk lay the groundwork to arrange the joint drive. 

What number of troops will likely be assembled?

“We must always not anticipate a big quantity from the Russian Armed Forces. However will probably be greater than 1,000 individuals,” stated Lukashenko. 

Russia’s heavy losses in over seven months of conflict in Ukraine imply it’s unlikely to have the ability to commit many males, stated protection analyst Konrad Muzyka from the Poland-based Rochan Consulting group. 

Subsequently, the majority of those troops will possible be offered by Minsk. 

Belarus has about 45,000 troopers, 60 plane and 600 tanks, in keeping with a 2021 report by Muzyka for the Estonia-based Worldwide Heart for Safety and Protection assume tank. 

However, in keeping with Muzyka, who has been monitoring Belarusian navy actions since March, the Belarusian items that may be dedicated are inexperienced and comparatively weak.

					Russian and Belarusian military units hold joint military exercises.					 					Zuma / TASS

Russian and Belarusian navy items maintain joint navy workouts.
Zuma / TASS

The place will they go and what is going to they do? 

Unclear. The joint drive will likely be purely “defensive” and will likely be despatched to Belarus’ border, Belarusian Protection Minister Victor Khrenin stated Tuesday. 

“We emphasize as soon as once more that the duties of the Regional Grouping of Forces are purely defensive. And all actions carried out in the intervening time are aimed toward offering a adequate response to actions close to our borders,” Khrenin stated in an announcement.

This might imply Union State forces are despatched to defend Belarus’ western border with European Union and NATO members Poland, Lithuania or Latvia — or to the nation’s southern border with Ukraine. 

Sending troops south and feeding rumors of a navy intervention might be an try to tie up Kyiv’s forces, in keeping with Muzyka, serving to to cut back stress on the Russian navy because it continues to be pressured again by Ukraine’s counteroffensive. 

					Belarusian Defense Minister Viktor Khrenin (R) and Russia's Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu.					 					kremlin.ru

Belarusian Protection Minister Viktor Khrenin (R) and Russia’s Protection Minister Sergei Shoigu.

What has been Ukraine’s response?

President Volodymyr Zelensky informed a gathering of G7 leaders Tuesday that Russia was searching for to pull its ally Belarus into the conflict in Ukraine. 

“Russia is attempting to immediately draw Belarus into this conflict, enjoying a provocation that we’re allegedly getting ready an assault on this nation,” Zelensky stated, calling for worldwide observers to be positioned on the Ukraine-Belarus border “to observe the safety state of affairs.”

Might this be the beginning of a wider Belarusian conflict with Ukraine? 

Whereas an assault on a NATO nation is extraordinarily unlikely, Lukashenko’s announcement might imply Minsk is gearing itself up for a extra direct function in assist of Russia in Ukraine. 

In a single potential situation, claims of an imminent Ukrainian assault on Minsk might be a part of a false-flag operation designed to construct public assist for a navy transfer by Belarus.  

However for the second, it’s too early to have the ability to guess Lukashenko’s actual targets, Muzyka stated. 

AFP contributed reporting.

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