Lukashenko during security conference. (source: https://eng.belta.by)
During a forum on military security on October 4, Lukashenko acknowledged that Belarus had participated in Russia’s invasion of Ukraine to some extent. Contrary to the official Russian narrative, Lukashenko had earlier referred to it as a “war” and had attempted to portray Russia as a peace broker, but he now acknowledged that “as far as our participation in the special military operation in Ukraine is concerned, we are engaged in it. We do not conceal it.
At the same time, Lukashenko said, “But we don’t kill anyone,” in an effort to support Minsk’s stance. Instead, Lukashenko asserted that Belarus’ involvement was confined to two things: first, keeping the conflict from spilling over into Belarusian territory; and second, stopping NATO allies Poland, Lithuania, and Latvia from attacking Belarus.
Following the conclusion of Lukashenko’s most recent meeting with Putin, Belarus’ defense ministry has drastically increased its war rhetoric, alleging that the West is posing a serious military danger to Belarus. Viktor Khrenin, the defense minister of Belarus, asserted that Belarus is at the center of a geopolitical confrontation between Russia and the West that is currently affecting the “military political situation around Belarus.”
Conclusions reached by Lukashenko predict that tensions won’t decrease any time soon and that Russia would instead step up its involvement in Ukraine. This is probably based on what Putin informed him last week, given that Lukashenko’s earlier claims regarding Russia’s geopolitical goals have proven to be accurate.
Additionally, Lukashenko claimed that Ukraine had positioned 15,000 troops along the border and was constructing engineering equipment, road barriers, checkpoints, and shooting positions in addition to other “provocations” such as checkpoints and firing positions.
According to a recent report from the Ministry of Defence Intelligence of Ukraine, Belarus is getting ready to house 20,000 recently mobilized Russian soldiers. Oleksiy Arestovych, the presidential advisor for Ukraine, gave a strong indication last week that Ukraine would launch an attack before Russian troops cross the Belarusian-Ukrainian border. Nobody will be waiting for the next Bucha, he further emphasized, adding that “this time we will not be sentimental.”
Alexander Volfovich, the State Secretary of Belarus’ Security Council, quickly declared following Lukashenko’s conference on military security that the general population of Belarus will be informed of the “growing military-political scenario” in accordance with his directives.
Volfovich emphasized that Belarus had no mobilization plans similar to those Putin declared on September 21 in addition to what Lukashenko had already stated.
New assignments for Lukashenko following his meeting with Putin
Following his meeting with Putin, Lukashenko seems to have been pressured by the Kremlin into making additional concessions in order to maintain his position of power. The accelerated political and economic union of Belarus and Russia under the 1999 Union State agreement appears to be one of these concessions. This appears to have primarily (though not entirely) to do with the signing of two accords on harmonizing tax and customs laws, whose signing Minsk has been delaying for years.
The other one seems to involve more than just military assistance, such as hosting recently mobilized Russian forces to free up regular Russian forces that could be sent to the front; rather, it seems that Lukashenko must give the Kremlin more formal political backing for its geopolitical tales.
The Georgian authorities referred to Lukashenko’s visit to the Russian-occupied Abkhazia area as one of his earliest displays of solidarity. His next major demonstration of support appears to involve both a strengthening of the official Russian narrative of what is happening in Ukraine among the Belarusian population as well as an escalation of his regular aggressive rhetoric against the West and Ukraine.
Exiled Belarusian opposition leader Svetlana Tikhanovskaya expressed doubt that the Belarusian army would take part in an invasion of Ukraine because it did not harbor any anti-Ukrainian emotions in an interview with the Polish TV channel TVN24.
According to many analysts, one of the main reasons why Lukashenko has not dared to send his own troops into the battle is the low level of support for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, whether or not Belarusian forces are present. Putin might want Lukashenko to attempt to change public opinion, and if they hadn’t already, it’s possible that Belarus’ Defense Ministry intends to instill anti-Ukrainian feelings in both the army and the wider population.
Volfovich’s statement might be the start of a significant information campaign targeting the people of Belarus against Ukraine.
It is unclear whether such a campaign is directly related to the gradually rising number of conscripts being called up by Belarusian recruitment offices, a potential Russian reopening of Ukraine’s northern front, and Lukashenko’s statement that tensions won’t decrease soon. In any case, it will undoubtedly be a part of Minsk’s dual strategy of portraying itself as a victim who is caught in the middle of a geopolitical conflict between Russia and the West.