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Belarus Could Play A Key Role In The Russian-Ukrainian Conflict

The geographical position and proximity of Belarus to the Vladimir Putin regime could significantly influence the direction the war takes and its outcome.

Lukashenko and Putin

Photo: kremlin.ru

LatinAmerican Post | Luis Angel Hernández Liborio

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Leer en español: Bielorrusia podría tener un papel clave en el conflicto ruso-ucraniano

"The devil's best trick is to make you believe he doesn't exist", this quote from Charles Baudelaire could well apply to Belarus, which over the years has tried to blend in under the radar in an apparent state of neutrality in the Russo-Ukrainian conflict, but that in reality, it has had a more critical role than we can see. Its clear closeness to Moscow and the fear that the power of the West will make itself felt have pushed the Belarusian government to rethink its strategy on Ukraine.

The Position Of Belarus In The War

Belarus and Ukraine have many similarities, from historical to cultural and political aspects. But one of the most noteworthy things is that both "belong" to Russia's "living space", at least in an outdated concept of geopolitics. This means that the interests of Kyiv and Minsk must be aligned with those of Moscow for harmony in the region. In Ukraine Putin has not been able to maintain this control, his last pawn, Viktor Yanukovych, was deposed after the Euromaidan, and since then everything has gone downhill, the current war being the most critical point.

The case of Belarus is different, since 1994 Alexandr Lukashenko has governed, a man close to the interests of Moscow and who has managed to stay in power, which he has legally secured until 2035. Lukashenko has seen in Ukraine what he does not want for Belarus, getting closer to the West and its values would spell the downfall of his regime, so staying in Vladimir Putin's sphere ensures the two of them a more profitable partnership. So although the position of Belarus is, on the surface, conciliatory between Russians and Ukrainians, the reality shows the opposite, its support for Moscow is impossible to hide. The military power of Belarus is not a minor thing, both for Ukraine and for the rest of Europe.

Should Ukraine Fear A Belarusian Invasion?

Vladimir Putin has not given an express signal, a call to Belarus to action, but certainly, Lukashenko would have to respond to the Russian president by fulfilling his wishes. Putin's visit to Belarus has raised all kinds of suspicions about the direction the war could take. For Belarus, isolating itself from Russia and confronting the West is not a scenario Lukashenko wants to have, so the entry of the Belarusian army into the Russo-Ukrainian war is not something to be ruled out. It is something that would open another battlefront for the Ukrainian army and would benefit Russia as it advances in the war. But, Ukraine has on its side the economic power of the European Union and the United States, and breaking its fragile neutrality would mean Belarus being filled with sanctions of the same level as those applied to Russia, although with greater economic weakness that, in turn, would have an impact on political stability.

If the projections for Russia are bad, for Belarus they would be catastrophic, it would be a war that would be difficult to sustain. In addition, being at the gates of Poland, and with that of Europe, they would lead NATO and the European Union to act. And there is an even more catastrophic scenario for the Belarusians, in addition to resisting Western sanctions, there is also the possibility that Ukraine can successfully defend itself, if it has resisted the advance of the Russian army in some regions, why couldn't it resist the advance of the Russian military? Belarusian?

You can also read: Winter in Europe: a chance for peace in Ukraine or a chance to escalate the war?

The Interest Of the West In Belarus

For the European Union and the United States, mainly, the interest in Belarus is practically the same as the one in Ukraine. In other words, to remove both countries from Vladimir Putin's sphere of power, Ukraine tried for years to formalize its process of joining the European Union. When everything seemed to be going smoothly, Putin's hand was present and chaos began. Lukashenko's dictatorial control over Belarus makes this country a major challenge for Europe, especially when the Belarusian president is "warned" against pro-Western protests and the opposition. So if the West cannot topple or bring down the Lukashenko government, their only option is to pressure it to withdraw its support from Putin so they can increase its isolation, but they risk ending up like Ukraine.

Nuclear Weapons In The Equation

Ukraine and Belarus renounced nuclear weapons in 1994, specifically, Ukraine had a large arsenal that it handed over to Russia. The use of nuclear weapons is unlikely in a current war, but not impossible. The fact that Belarus has announced upgrading its aircraft and military equipment to be able to use Russian nuclear weapons changes the way it relates to the West. NATO and the European Union would have to think more carefully about any possible military retaliation against Belarus if it took an active part in the war, that is, if it invaded Ukraine openly. This shows the potential of Belarus as a strategic ally of Putin, pure oxygen for a war that has spread, which is now reaching winter, and which has eroded the image of the Russian president, already deteriorated since the annexation of Crimea and the signs of repression.