However, the aggressor country can effectively use the Belarusian bridgehead.
Belarus is still «feverish» after the presidential election. Mass protests are taking place across the country. Acting President Alexander Lukashenko considers them directed from the outside and accuses neighboring countries, including Ukraine, of interfering. Moreover, he openly calls on Russia to help protect Belarus from the «external threat.» Whether in such a situation Ukraine should fear military aggression from the north — in the material RBC-Ukraine.
Presidential elections in Belarus took place on August 9. On the same day, thousands of disgruntled citizens protested, saying the election had been rigged. A number of countries, including Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, and the European Parliament, did not recognize the election results. Others, Russia, China and their allies, hastened to congratulate Lukashenko on his victory.
Ukraine has so far taken a wait-and-see attitude. However, this did not prevent Lukashenko from accusing our country of interfering in the internal affairs of Belarus.
«NATO troops are crawling with caterpillars, there is an increase in military force on the western borders of our country. Lithuania, Latvia, Poland and, unfortunately, our native Ukraine, its leadership, are ordering us to hold new elections, ”the Belarusian dictator said, and then asked to give Zelensky a reminder of“ responsibility for inciting riots ”.
Moreover, «due to outside pressure,» Lukashenko has repeatedly turned to Russian President Vladimir Putin for help. He stated his readiness to «provide the necessary assistance» within the framework of the Union State and the military structure of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO).
This close communication between the aggressor country and the Belarusian dictator has not gone unnoticed in Ukraine. On August 17, President Vladimir Zelensky held a closed meeting with the security forces, where he stated that the events in this country could «significantly affect» Ukraine.
Journalists interviewed military experts to see if Kiev should be afraid of a Russian attack by the recently friendly Belarus.
At this stage, Russia and Belarus are closely cooperating within the framework of two entities — the Union State and the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO).
The joint supranational union of the Russian Federation and Belarus was documented in 1997-99. It was assumed that the Union State would be a de facto union of the two countries with a common parliament, government and governing bodies.
At the same time, many aspects of the Union State’s activities remain unrealized in practice. Attempts to accelerate the integration of Belarus into this union with the Russian Federation have repeatedly become a reason for protests in Minsk. Now Alexander Lukashenko says that the opposition wants to withdraw his country from the alliance agreement with the Russian side.
According to Ukrainian military experts, such a «virtual» union as the Union State can pose a real threat to our country.
“Since the creation of the Union State, a military threat has been constantly emanating from the territory of Belarus for us, for Ukraine, as a joint regional grouping of the Armed Forces of the Republic of Belarus (Republic of Belarus, ed.) And the Russian Federation operates within the Union State of Russia and Belarus. The first echelon is the Armed Forces of the Republic of Belarus, and the second is the Western Military District of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation, ”explained Mikhail Samus, deputy head of the Center for Army, Conversion and Disarmament Studies.
This joint group, he adds, comes under the full command of the General Staff of the Russian Armed Forces during a special period. In this regard, since 2014, the Ukrainian military in planning defense take into account that the territory of Belarus is one that can be freely used by the Russian Federation in a special period. Protests could lead to the Belarusian authorities announcing the introduction of such a provision.
«The military threat from 2014 (from the territory of Belarus, — ed.) Was at a high level, and now it has moved to an even higher level. Because destabilization in Belarus can lead to the introduction of a special period or state of emergency, «said the expert.
Oleg Zhdanov, a reserve colonel and former employee of the General Staff’s operational department, agrees with him. He also believes that the accelerated integration of Belarus with Russia within the Union State will lead to the fact that Ukraine will have another «about 1,000 km of border with the aggressor state.»
Indeed, Art. Article 18 of the Treaty on the Establishment of the Union State states that Russia and Belarus will have a joint defense policy. And they will be able to take «other measures» to maintain the defense capabilities of the state union.
At the same time, all the interviewed experts do not see a threat to Ukraine from such a direct military formation as the CSTO. This organization was established in May 1992 as a counterweight to NATO.
Initially, its members were Russia, Belarus, Armenia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan and Georgia. However, the last three broke away from the organization in 1999.
The CSTO copies a number of key NATO principles. In particular, Art. 4 of its charter states that if one of the member states is subjected to aggression by any state or group of states, it will be considered as aggression against the entire CSTO.
Also in the event of an act of aggression against a State party, all others will provide it with the necessary assistance, including military assistance. Expert Mikhail Samus emphasizes that for almost 30 years of operation of this organization, it has never shown its effectiveness.
Colonel Zhdanov points out that since the beginning of the unrest in Belarus, Lukashenko has not even initiated an emergency meeting of the CSTO, which means that he himself understands the futility of such actions. Experts consider the CSTO an «ephemeral» and incompetent organization whose members have too different interests.
As of August 20, all the «help» from the Collective Security Treaty Organization was that the organization’s secretary general, Stanislav Zas, promptly congratulated Lukashenko on his «victory» in the presidential election and noted his «authority, determination and efficiency.»
Despite the apparent helplessness of structures such as the Union State and the CSTO, military experts and representatives of the Ukrainian authorities urge not to turn a blind eye to the danger that could potentially arise for Ukraine due to destabilization in Belarus.
«In fact, there are already Russian troops in Belarus, which have been stationed there since 2014. This is an aviation-tactical group, about 4,000 people, and a 10,000-strong division, which Putin apparently «forgot» to withdraw from Belarus after the «West-2017» exercise. Since it is scattered over seven landfills, it is not obvious and many have already forgotten about it, «said Colonel Zhdanov.
At the same time, it is difficult to use such a group for a full-scale military operation against Ukraine from the north, he said. The expert explains that the division’s maximum depth of attack is 25 km (from the border of Belarus to Kiev about 180 km — ed.), And after that it needs to be replenished, refueled and repaired weapons.
In addition, for the ground offensive in the north of Ukraine and, accordingly, in the south of Belarus, an extremely unsuitable area is impassable forests and swamps.
«It is really difficult to conduct large-scale ground operations from the territory of Belarus to Ukraine, but the use of special operations forces, airborne troops, missile forces, and aircraft will in principle be quite comfortable for Russia if it deploys its troops there,» said military expert Mikhail. Samus.
According to Zhdanov, the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine has already taken measures and analyzed the situation in the northern direction.
“In 2015-16, our General Staff dealt with issues of the northern border. We have worked out several versions of the defense plan. We have enough troops there today to deter a possible attempted invasion from the north, ”he said.
In addition, the expert says, Russia has problems with manning the army. This is due to a sharp increase in the number and transfer of personnel to the Rosguard — a force structure created in 2016 to counter internal threats.
A source in the security forces says that now the situation on the Ukrainian-Belarusian border is calm and there is no accumulation of military equipment. At the same time, with the beginning of unrest in Belarus, the Ukrainian authorities decided to strengthen the protection of this section of the border.
“At the moment, we are guarding the border with Belarus in an intensified version, as the situation in this country is quite uneasy… When the situation in Belarus began to escalate, we switched to an enhanced regime. Additional resources and forces have been used to protect this area, ”explained the speaker of the State Border Service Andrei Demchenko.
He claims that the Ukrainian side has enough forces and means to prevent any provocations at the border. At the moment, all seven checkpoints at the border are operating normally, with an average daily passenger flow of about 4,000 people.
Demchenko also noted that, despite the situation in Belarus, the joint operation of Belarusian and Ukrainian border guards «Zubr 2020», which began in mid-July, continues. It is held annually to identify the facts of illegal activities at the joint section of the border.
The Ministry of Defense reported that Minister Andrei Taran discussed the situation in Belarus during a meeting with his British counterpart Ben Wallace on August 18. The British and Ukrainian ministers came to the conclusion that foreign military intervention on Belarusian territory was inadmissible.
Comments on potential «Belarusian threats» from the National Security and Defense Council (NSDC) of Ukraine and the Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR) could not be obtained. The National Security and Defense Council stated that «at the moment they generally refrain from commenting on the situation in Belarus,» and the SVR said that they could not promptly provide the required comment and advised to write a written request.
A few years ago, Alexander Lukashenko laughed at Ukrainians’ fears of a possible Russian attack from the north. He claimed that from this direction they would come to us «on a tractor to plow the land.» The difficult situation in Belarus after the 2020 presidential election has radically changed the situation. Now the Belarusian dictator constantly says that foreign states are trying to overthrow him and asks for Putin’s protection. So the risk of opening a «new front» on the northern borders of Ukraine remains.
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